Fifteen years after leaving the province of Manitoba for the desert heat of Arizona, the Jets found their way back to Winnipeg. The fans longing for a NHL team since its departure packed the arena and the streets, joined by the Prime Minister Stephen Harper, celebrated the return of hockey in this Atlantic province. The Montreal Canadiens, a team with countless fans in Western and Atlantic Canada, were invited to be part of this historic moment marking the return of the Jets. While we are used to seeing the Canadiens being cheered west of Toronto, this game gave a feeling as if Montreal was playing in the Boston TD Garden, facing a hostile crowd. The Canadiens, coming off a stinking performance against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the season opener, spoiled the homecoming of the Jets winning this one 5-1.
A long and emotional ceremony that saw a tribute to departed Rick Rypien, a free agent signed by the Jets in the off-season, preceded the ceremonial puck drop. Just three minutes into the game, Michael Cammalleri made the Jets’ history by scoring the first goal against these new Jets. Cammalleri intercepted a pass by Johnny Oduya, who had a tough night finishing with -3, to find himself alone in front of Ondrej Pavelec, beating the Jets goalie on the glove side. Cammalleri later had to leave the game after being cut by Yannick Weber's skate during a penalty kill effort. Weber was replacing Jaroslav Spacek on the defence after the latter had to leave the game only five minutes into the game.
Spacek was hit hard into the boards in front of the Canadiens bench by Evander Kane. He was seen favoring his left ribs and didn’t return after that play. While the Canadiens did hurt the Jets on the scoreboard, where it mattered the most, they were outhit and outshot by a pumped up home team. Montreal’s lack of toughness was quite visible on many occasions mustering only 10 hits against the 26 by the Jets. Carey Price had another solid outing between the pipes with 30 stops frustrating the Jets’ shooters all night long. Only Nik Antropov was able to put one past the Canadiens’ netminder with Brett Maclean and Josh Georges in the blue paint.
As for the Habs’, after being unable to break the ice against the Leafs, five different Habs’ players found the back of the net with few individual efforts. Tomas Plekanec led his team with a goal and two assists along with a monstrous effort on the penalty kill unit, including a long 1:19 of double powerplay by the home team. While Price continued stopping Dustin Byfuglien, Kane and Antropov, including a superb glove save on a breakaway by the latter, the Canadiens kept putting the puck in the net.
Travis Moen, who played a solid game after replacing the injured Cammalleri on a line with Plekanec, scored a beautiful goal after he blew past two Jets’ players in the neutral zone before sliding the puck between Pavelec’s legs. Weber, with a solid effort after replacing Spacek on the defence scored on a blast during a 4-3 man advantage and Max Pacioretty who had a solid game along with Captain Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez contributed to the scoring with a beautiful wrist shot on a partial 2 on 1. The line of Gionta-Gomez-Pacioretty was the most dangerous line of the Canadiens during the first period with Gionta getting the best of the chances.
Alexei (Y)Emelin played a solid game in his NHL-debut and delivered a great effort on the defensive line along with Raphael Diaz and Weber after Spacek’s departure. Just like the first game in Toronto, once again Eric Cole’s ice-time was a question mark for many. After signing the power-forward to a long and rich deal during the off season, many expected Cole to see plenty of time on the power play and 5-5 where the Canadiens struggled last season. With the exception of Michael Cammalleri, who was injured in the first period, only Andrei Kostitsyn and Andreas Engqvist saw less ice-time than Cole.
Montreal will make their home debut on Thursday night when they will be hosting the Calgary Flames to mark the beginning of a three-game home stand.
Note: Blair Betts stay with the Canadiens didn’t last long as the injured forward was returned to the Flyers. Betts was claimed off waivers on the 5th of October but after the team doctors determined that he was physically unfit to play, the league voided the claim returning the 31-year-old forward back to the Philadelphia.
HiD Three Stars
- Carey Price
- Tomas Plekanec
- Yannick Weber
HiD Turning Point
Yannick Weber scored a powerplay goal on a questionable call to Dustin Byfuglien to increase the lead to 3-1.