The crowd was primed, Ginette Reno belted out O Canada in stirring fashion, and the Canadiens in the first 20 minutes belted bodies and pelted 15 shots at the Rangers net while allowing just 5.
It looked like it was gonna be a rip-roaring, rootin’ tootin’ affair at the Bell Centre on Wednesday night, with the happy crowd filling Peel and Crescent St. later to celebrate the return of joyous hockey in Montreal.
But a fine and somewhat flukey backhand shot by Tanner Glass in the first, and an empty-netter as the clock wore down, and the Rangers take the always-important first game 2-0. Now fans filling the pubs in downtown Montreal must debate their team’s lack of scoring instead of high-fiving and toasting friends and strangers alike.
The Canadiens were flying in the first, energized by the building, the anthem, the atmosphere in hockey’s greatest city, and the wondrous anticipation leading up to the puck drop, but were ultimately foiled by Henrik Lundqvist and a tight and disciplined Rangers squad.
Montreal’s wings were trimmed in the second and third as the visitors stood tall in the neutral zone, were stingy in their end, and with Lundqvist on his game, they made life way too difficult for the good guys.
Yes, it was a bummer to lose the opener. Adjustments need to be made. Nikita Nesterov, awkward on defence, needs to sit. Scorers need to score. Shooters need to hit the net. Centremen need to win important faceoffs. The team has to be better in their own end.
In fact, nothing really changed from the regular season when scorers weren’t scoring, pucks missed nets, faceoffs were lost, and confusion reigned often in their own end.
Friday has to be different. Imagine going down two games before hitting Broadway. Not gonna happen is my prediction.
Shots were 31 apiece.
Alexei Emelin, still healing, didn’t play, and I for one wouldn’t mind seeing the big fellow in the lineup sooner than soon. The team has to smash these bastards like they did in the first period of the opener. But for 60 minutes next time.
Last year, THE SEASON FROM HELL, saw the Canadiens score 221 times over 82 games. This season they managed 226, five more.
Last year the team allowed 236 goals, while this year it was just 200, which shows what happens when Carey Price is healthy. And last season they finished with 82 points while this season was 103 points.
A different team, a new lease on life. Expected to make a big dent in the postseason. But they’re not scoring. Not yet anyway.