Jonathan Drouin scored the lone shootout goal in rallying the Montreal Canadiens to a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night in the season opener for both teams.
While Canadiens goalie Carey Price looked his familiar formidable self.
Game Wrap: Jonathan Drouin scores shootout winner in Habs debut1:20
Price stopped 43 shots through overtime and denied all three of Buffalo’s shootout attempts following an off-season in which he signed an eight-year, $ 84 million contract extension.
Drouin, the Quebec-born first-round draft pick acquired in an off-season trade from Tampa Bay, then put on a nifty display by scoring the lone shootout goal and adding an assist.
Driving toward the net, Drouin faked left in prompting goalie Robin Lehner to make the first move, and then zagged to his right in backhanding the puck into the open side.
“It shows you the kind of skill level he’s got,” Canadiens coach Claude Julien said about the third player selected in the 2013 draft.
If Drouin proved to be the odd-man out among a talented Lightning group of forwards, he’s quickly finding his niche on a Canadiens team in need of offence.
Montreal traded prospect defenceman Mikhail Sergachev and a conditional 2018 second-round pick to acquire Drouin in June.
“It is important for the team, two points, but for me, too,” said Drouin, who’s pass through the crease set up Max Pacioretty’s one-timer that tied it 1-1 late in the first period.
Sabres blow lead
Phillip Danault forced overtime by scoring a short-handed goal on a wraparound with 11:59 left.
The Sabres blew two one-goal leads in spoiling Phil Housley’s debut as head coach and Jason Pominville’s two-goal outing in his first game back with Buffalo since being reacquired in a trade with Minnesota in June.
Housley lamented the loss, while noting he saw positive signs of the up-tempo style he’s introducing to Buffalo after spending the previous four seasons as an assistant coach in Nashville.
Buffalo goalie Robin Lehner (40) stops Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher (11) Thursday in Buffalo. (Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press)
“We outshot the team, we out-chanced the team, we just didn’t beat them on the scoreboard,” said Housley, the Hall of Fame defenceman who broke into the NHL with Buffalo as an 18-year old in 1982. “We don’t like the result obviously, but I think we can take a lot of things from this game as we move forward.”
Buffalo took 45 shots, including 41 through three periods a year after the team topped 40 just four times.
Buffalo’s power play falters
Where Buffalo faltered was on the power play in converting just one of five opportunities. The Sabres managed one shot on goal during a two-man advantage spanning 78 seconds in the second period. And then they gave up the tying goal 42 seconds after Montreal’s Andrew Shaw was penalized for interference.
Canadiens defenceman Shea Weber gained the Sabres zone and briefly lost control of the puck before dumping it behind Buffalo’s net. Danault pounced on it and wrapped it in from the right side.
“We sort of took the foot off the gas there,” Housley said.
Buffalo is coming off a tumultuous off-season in which general manager Tim Murray and coach Dan Bylsma were fired after the team missed the playoffs for a sixth consecutive season. Jason Botterill took over as GM in May and a month later hired Housley.
Pominville opened the scoring with a power-play goal 8:30 into the first period and then converted Jack Eichel’s pass through the middle to put Buffalo up 2-1 in the opening minute of the second period.
The former Sabres captain spent the four-plus seasons in Minnesota before being was acquired along with defenceman Marco Scandella.
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