When Canadiens coach Jacques Martin gave the hook to starting goaltender Carey Price on Friday, he was invoking the hockey equivalent of the mercy rule.

Price gave up five goals on 12 shots but Martin was quick to grant him absolution after the Canadiens dropped a 6-3 decision to the New York Rangers.

"The goals weren't his fault," Martin said.

"The first goal was a turnover, a blocked shot that led to a breakaway," Martin said. "On the second one, we killed a penalty but then we didn't get the puck out of our zone. The third probably broke our back. The next one was a turnover and on the fifth one, our (defenceman) pinched in and allowed a three-on-one break the other way."

The backbreaker was a strange goal which saw Brian Gionta attempt to clear the puck from the crease. His pass hit Paul Mara's stick, went off defenceman James Wisniewski's back and bounced over Price.