On a night when the Montreal Canadiens introduced a slew of a new faces to their lineup, it was a familiar one that stole the show.
Carey Price stopped 43 shots and delivered a strong statement after enduring an off-season of questions about his play as Montreal downed the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 in overtime Thursday night.
“He was unbelievable,” said defenceman Josh Gorges, who scored with 12.8 seconds showing on the overtime clock. “He held us in there when the game could have got out of hand.”
The last time Canadiens fans saw the young goalie in a meaningful game, he gestured to them while getting booed at home during a first-round playoff loss to Boston. Price was the biggest reason why Montreal pulled out an unlikely opening-night victory.
“Carey stood on his head,” forward Mike Cammalleri said. “I just talked to him and said, ‘We’ve got to be better for you and we will.’ The truth is that we expect him to do that from time to time because that’s how good he is.”
“He won us the game.”
The Canadiens were badly outshot and thoroughly outplayed through two periods, but found a way to hang around. They got some help from former teammate Mike Komisarek, who was in the penalty box for two Montreal goals.
Brian Gionta and Travis Moen scored in their debuts for Montreal, and fourth-line forward Glen Metropolit tied the game during a late power play. He was surprised to be on the ice to tip a shot from Gorges behind Vesa Toskala at 15:50 of the third period.
“It’s just one of those things,” Metropolit said. “I couldn’t believe I was on the power play, so I’m like, ‘Where do I go?’ So I said, ‘Why not go to the front of the net?”‘
That is the same place Gorges went on the winner, batting a rebound over Toskala after Cammalleri took the puck hard to the net. It was his sixth NHL goal in 247 career games.
“That’s a great way to start the season,” Gorges said. “I don’t score many goals.”
Elsewhere in the NHL it was: Calgary 5 Vancouver 3; Washington 4 Boston 1; and Colorado 5 San Jose 2.
At Toronto, Matt Stajan had two goals, and Alexei Ponikarovsky added one for the Maple Leafs.
“I think we were the better team tonight, and fell short,” said Komisarek. “We didn’t get two points. Next time, we’ll find a way to win and get the two points.”
“Good start, could have been better, but we’ll take the point and take the positive out of it.”
The Canadiens-Maple Leafs rivalry runs deeper than just history, with three fights, several scrums after the whistle and plenty of jawing back and forth. Much of it centred on Komisarek, the Leafs defenceman who left Montreal over the summer to sign a US$22.5-million, five-year deal.
Before the game, Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson expressed concern that Komisarek might get a little too worked up while facing his former team. He received a double high-sticking penalty in the first period for cutting open new Canadiens forward Scott Gomez.
“Mike answered the bell, and he’ll continue to do so,” Wilson said. “We need more of our defencemen to respond as aggressively and quickly as Mike did.”
Canadiens defenceman Andrei Markov left early in the third period after getting tangled up with Price and sustaining an unspecified injury. Montreal coach Jacques Martin said Markov will be re-evaluated on Friday.
Price is looking to rebound from a tough end to last season and couldn’t be faulted for either of the first two goals. He was plenty busy, too – when the horn sounded to end the second period, Toronto was outshooting Montreal 30-13.
In the third period, the Canadiens were called for a pair of goaltender interference penalties and Stajan put the Leafs ahead for the first time while Moen was serving the second. He had a wide-open net at 9:09 after Jason Blake made a nifty move to kick the puck up to his stick and slid it in front.
The Maple Leafs appeared to have the game in hand until Komisarek took a late elbowing penalty – his fifth minor of the night to go with a fighting major. On the power play, Metropolit tipped in a point shot at 15:50 that appeared to go in and out of Toskala’s glove.
Flames 5 Canucks 3
At Calgary, Miikka Kiprusoff made 39 saves as the Flames opened their regular season by beating Vancouver.
Capitals 4 Bruins 1
At Boston, Alex Ovechkin had two goals and an assist, and Jose Theodore stopped 19 shots to lead the Washington Capitals over the Bruins in the season-opener.
Avalanche 5 Sharks 2
At Denver, Wojtek Wolski scored two goals and Craig Anderson stopped 38 shots, lifting Colorado to a season-opening win over San Jose after the Avalanche retired Joe Sakic’s No. 19.