Montreal kicked off the NHL season on Wednesday by snapping a four game
opening night losing skid to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre as both teams traded fluky goals late in the game.
A Tomas Plekanec goal in the final minute proved to be the difference in a 4-3
victory as the Habs started their season on a winning note.
It was a sloppy start for Montreal, as they looked flat in the opening five minutes, only notching their first shot on goal 4:42 into the period. It happened to be a goal on a bad angle shot by Max Pacioretty, that Jonathan Bernier should’ve had, as they took a 1-0 lead. Toronto’s Nazem Kadri replied quickly with a point blank tip in front of Carey Price to tie it up at 8:04 in the first period.
The first powerplay of the game went to Montreal and they came close to retaking the lead as Nathan Beaulieu rang one off the crossbar. Toronto went on the powerplay with 2:15 left in the first and went ahead late as Tyler Bozak slotted in unmarked in front of the net.
The shots ended in Toronto’s favour, 11-6.
Montreal started the second period, as they did the first, with sloppy play as Toronto looked the more dangerous team.
However, Alexei Emelin sprung Tomas Plekanec on a breakaway and he made no mistake sliding in the backhand to tie it up 2-2 at the 4:34 mark. Montreal went on their second powerplay of the game near the midway point of the period but couldn’t capitalize.
Both teams exchanged chances throughout the second half of the period but Price and Bernier were each up to task. Tom Gilbert took a four minute high-sticking penalty with 2:57 to play in the second but the teams would head into the second intermission tied at two apiece. Shots were 18-18 after two frames with Montreal having a stronger period.
Toronto started the third period with 1:03 of powerplay time but couldn’t find the breakthrough. Montreal continued to grow into the game, highlighted by Brendan Gallagher, Plekanec and Alex Galchenyuk putting in a dangerous shift. Some good work deep in the offensive zone by David Desharnais and P-A Parenteau led to Desharnais centering a bobbling puck to P.K. Subban, who picked his spot for a 3-2 lead with 11:19 left to play.
Montreal applied more pressure and generated the better chances as the game headed into the later stages. Desperation began to creep into Toronto’s game with under five minutes to play as they started to generate chances of their own. Morgan Rielly
tied it up with 2:19 to play on a lucky bounce off Lars Eller in front of Price.
Moments later, Montreal answered with their own lucky bounce as Plekanec threw a
puck on net to have it bounce off Stuart Percy’s skate with 43 seconds to play.
The goal would stand as the winner as the Habs skated to a 4-3 victory.
HW 3 Stars of the Night
1st Star: Carey Price
He made big saves throughout the game and kept Montreal in it, especially early in the first when the Canadiens still thought it was preseason.
Price couldn’t be faulted for at least two of the goals scored.
24 saves on 27 shots – .889 save percentage – 3.00 GAA
2nd Star: Tomas Plekanec
He scored a nifty backhand on the breakaway and was fortunate to get the game winner, but a solid performance from the veteran as he and his linemates became more dangerous as the game progressed.
2 goals – 0 assist – +1 – 5 shots – 0 hits – 1 takeaway – 15:27 TOI
3rd Star: P-A Parenteau
Parenteau made up a third of the most dangerous line for most of the game. He looked to have chemistry with Pacioretty and Desharnais and made smart plays throughout. A better debut could only have come with a goal.
0 goal – 2 assists – +2 rating – 1 shot – 1 hit – 0 takeaways – 16:50 TOI
Max Pacioretty, although Desharnais deserves a nod as well. Pacioretty scored when the Canadiens were being overrun early in the first. He lacked a bit of quality in his touch and seemed to hold onto the puck a second too long but looked dangerous throughout the game nonetheless.
1 goal – 0 assist – +2 rating – 4 shots – 2 hits – 2 takeaways – 18:17 TOI
Stat of the Night
37. That’s 37 faceoff wins to Toronto’s 26 as all Montreal’s centremen had an over 50% win percentage at the dot, with Manny Malhotra leading the way with 69%.