The ice was hard. Didn't matter. Alex Tanguay's hands are soft.

So soft. Soft as an sleeping infant's breathing. Soft as a cloud.

"Man, he could pass the puck across any surface,'' marvelled defenceman Cory Sarich. "Good ice. Bad ice. Bumpy. Smooth. It's a knack. The rest of us just make do with what we've got.

"The ice was . . . tough. It was a dump-and-chase game and that seems to suit us fairly well. Just keep things going straight ahead. The boards and glass didn't seem to have a lot of life, either.

"Didn't seem to bother Alex much.''

In the fiercest of settings - the thermostat hovering at - 8 C, the ice problematical, the environment completely foreign - the most subtle of players made all the difference. He didn't use the elements to his advantage, he just didn't give them any thought at all, and simply went out to play the way Alex Tanguay can.

The goal and helper pushed him to 45 points in a career-salvaging bounce-back season. And he turned in another memorable performance Sunday with the whole of the NHL watching.

Tanguay's unerring way with the puck set the table in the Heritage Classic, slinging one of those trademark passes to Rene Bourque for the simplest of redirect goals as the Canadiens desperately tried to kill off the final seconds of a 5-on-3 early on, and then slamming an exclamation point on a comprehensive evening for the locals, bringing 41,022 to their feet one last time, cashing an equally lovely feed from Jarome Iginla back-door in the Calgary Flames' 4-0 triumph.

That early 5-on-3 goal, with just two seconds remaining in P.K. Subban's tripping minor, gave the Flames their footing after a shaky start.