Habs Sputter in Pre-Season Opener

The new season may be a good 15 days away, but there’s no denying the Montreal Canadiens have a long way to improve to be ready for the opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

It took the makeshift Habs twenty minutes to wake up in their pre-season opener. Unfortunately for Jacques Martin’s side, the Dallas Stars were already 3-0 up after some questionable goaltending by Carey Price. It may have been Montreal’s first game after a long summer, but there were some positives for the Canadiens. Despite trailing 3-0 at the first intermission and going further behind thanks to a Krystofer Barch goal – the Canadiens showed a lot of spirit as they launched a comeback.

Erik Cole, a man Montreal will expect a lot from this season, scored on his debut. The out-of-favor Andrei Kostitsyn also found the net and looked hungry to prove a point. This season is going to be a huge one for the Belarusian. Entering his last year of his current contract and following some unhelpful media comments made over the summer, Kostitsyn needs to respond on the ice.

Several new faces to Montreal were given their chance to shine. Jeff Woywitka made his mark with Montreal’s third goal, and Alexi Yemelin and Raphael Diaz looked confident offensively. There was a spark from the Canadiens in the sceond period, but it was only temporary as Dallas pulled away to win 6-3, with rookie goaltender Nathan Lawson on the receiving end of  two goals after replacing Carey Price at the 30 minute mark.

Price must have felt an element of déjà vu. Last year’s pre-season opener saw the goaltender give up three quick goals amid boos at the Bell Centre. However, the Habs need not panic as Price went on to enjoy his most impressive NHL season yet.

Not since the dark days of  Georges Laraque have Montreal had an enforcer in their ranks. Ryan White showed his tough edge last season, but 21-year-old Ian Schultz showed his potential after flooring Francis Wathier in a duel midway through the second period.

But the night belonged to the Stars, as Dallas looked very comfortable with the puck. Brenden Morrow opened the scoring and looked dangerous throughout the game until he hobbled off with a knee injury in the third period. Mike Ribeiro got the best of the young Montreal defence, coming away with a power play goal and an assist. Adam Pardy, Michael Ryder, Krystofer Barch and Matt Fraser all found the net to boost their pre-season confidence.

A revamped Montreal side hosts the Buffalo Sabres tonight. Max Pacioretty will play for the first time at the Bell Centre since Zdeno Chara’s hit during a game on March 8 left him suffering from a spinal injury and concussion. PK Subban and Brian Gionta will also be featured for Montreal.

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