The Habs returned to Montreal for their home opener on Tuesday, after earning three out of a possible four points on the road to start the 2016-17 season. The opposition was the Stanley Cup winners, the Pittsburgh Penguins. The opening ceremony was tastefully done, especially the handing of the torch by the last Habs coach to win the Stanley Cup, Jacques Demers.
Head coach Michel Therrien made a few lineup changes after the last game’s shootout loss to Ottawa. Rookie Mikhail Sergachev was back in the lineup after missing the last game. It was a nice tribute for the rookie, given his family had flown into Montreal to watch him play his first pro game at home. Veteran Brian Flynn was also added to the lineup, namely for his faceoff ability since the team had been woeful in that regard. Dropped from the lineup were Greg Pateryn and Daniel Carr, possibly because their replacements are more mobile and the Penguins are known to play an up tempo game.
The first period was mostly dominated by the Penguins, despite the Habs scoring first within the first minute on a goal from Max Pacioretty. Pittsburgh outshot Montreal 17-13. Starting goaltender Al Montoya was solid during the first 20 minutes of the game, helping to keep the score close.
Part way during the second period, the Habs started to take control of the game, generating better offensive scoring chances, and gathering some momentum. That led to their second goal, this time from David Desharnais, his first of two on the night.
In the third period, the referees called seven penalties, with five of them bunched into the first two and a half minutes. This caused the flow of the game to suffer, but the Canadiens managed to shake off the delays and later score twice more to finish the game with a 4-0 score; Alexander Radulov picked up his first at the tale end of the penalty fest while Desharnais added his second later on.
HW Habs 3 Stars of the Night
1st Star: Al Montoya – Montoya played an excellent game overall. Not only did he stop all 36 shots to earn the shutout, but he kept his team in the thick of it during the first, stopping all 17 shots he faced, many of them solid chances by the Penguins. His rebound control was excellent, and he was very poised in all situations. He even added an assist on the Habs third goal.
Stats: Shutout, 36 saves on 36 shots, 0.00 GAA, 1.000 SV%
2nd Star: Max Pacioretty – Max scored his first goal of the season after only 23 seconds to really get the crowd and his teammates fired up. His pass to Desharnais for the second goal was a beauty. He gave Montreal fans a scare in the 3rd period when he had to be helped off to the dressing room, but came back later without showing any issues.
Stats: 1 Goal, 1 Assist, 6 shots on goal, 16:38 TOI
3rd Star – David Desharnais — Desharnais scored two goals in two very opportunistic times. David was in the right place at the right time for both goals. He must have been motivated to make up for his epic fail during the shootout in the last game against Ottawa.
Stats: 2 Goals, 2 shots on goal, 11:57 TOI
Honourable Mention: Alexander Radulov – His first goal as a Hab, counted as Montreal’s 3rd goal after a goaltending interference challenge. The poise and patience with the puck to outwait the goaltender was stupendous. He plays with a high effort level, to add to his high skill level.
Stats: 1 Goal, 3 shots on goal, 14:39 TOI