The Montreal Canadiens started off the 2014-15 season on the right foot, defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 on opening night, and kicking off their season with a win for the first time in five years.
The Habs played a sloppy first period, being outshot 11-6 in the opening 20 minutes, and fell behind 2-1 by the time the buzzer rang for the first time. They were lucky to get a weak goal from Max Pacioretty who beat Leafs netminder Jonathan Bernier on the short side with a mediocre wrist shot that found its way into the back of the net.
Goals from Nazem Kadri on a tip in front of Carey Price, and a power play one timer by Tyler Bozak gave the Maple Leafs the edge after the opening frame.Oct 8, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier (45) makes a save on Montreal Canadiens forward Tomas Plekanec (14) during the second period at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Early in the second period, the Habs were able to tie things up when Alexei Emelin made a great pass to Tomas Plekanec, catching the Leafs in the middle of a line change. Plekanec was sent in alone on Bernier and waited him out on a backhand deke before sliding the puck into the net.
The Habs would outshoot the Leafs 13-7 in the middle frame, taking over the pace of play. The top line of Pacioretty with David Desharnais and P.A. Parenteau was especially effective, dominating possession of the puck every time they were on the ice.
P.K. Subban gave the Canadiens the lead midway through the third period when the Habs top line were in the midst of a typically dominant shift. Desharnais won a battle for the puck deep in the Leafs zone and fed a pass to a wide open Subban in the slot. The Habs offensive defender made no mistake, beating Bernier just under the blocker with a perfect snap shot to give the Habs the lead.
A strange bounce would tie the game, when Morgan Rielly fired a pass to the front of the Habs net. In an attempt to block the pass from reaching an open Mike Santorelli at the far post, Lars Eller tipped the puck with his stick, but it bounced into his chest before ricocheting past a helpless Price.
The game would not stay tied for long, as another bounce would even out the puck luck, but see the Leafs fall behind 4-3. From the corner of the ice to the far right of Bernier, Tomas Plekanec fired a bouncing puck toward the Leafs goal. The puck hit Rielly in the toe and bounced straight into the Leafs net, giving the Habs a 4-3 lead with just 43 seconds to play.Oct 8, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Montreal Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban (76) celebrates his goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the third period at the Air Canada Centre. Montreal defeated Toronto 4-3. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Price would conserve the lead by making an excellent pad save off a Phil Kessel shot with just 30 seconds left in regulation, and some excellent forechecking by Dale Weise would kill off the rest of the clock.
Montreal was led in ice time by veteran defenceman Andrei Markov, who played 26:17 in the season opener, and Nathan Beaulieu’s 10:25 was the least of all Habs skaters. The Canadiens rolled four lines all night, as all Habs forwards played at least 12 minutes, showing this year’s version has plenty of depth at the forward position.
Price stopped 24 of 27 shots he faced, and had no chance to stop two pucks that were deflected in front of him and another that was a one timer from about ten feet away.
Overall the Canadiens had a pretty solid game to start the season. Their first period was not great, but they hung on and took over for the final forty minutes. The bottom line is they start the season with a win, and take two points with them into tomorrow night’s game against the Washington Capitals.