MONTREAL (AP) — Before the Montreal Canadiens’ home opener, the Bell Centre crowd gave a huge ovation to ailing goaltender Carey Price.
After the game, they did the same for his replacement.
Veteran backup Al Montoya, filling in for a third straight game while Price recovers from the flu, made 36 saves to lead the Canadiens to a 4-0 victory over the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night.
In three starts to begin the season, Montoya has a 1.30 goals-against average and a .962 save percentage.
“I feel I’ve been trying to make a statement for a while,” said Montoya, a backup most of his career who signed as a free agent this summer from the Florida Panthers. “For me, this is just an opportunity to play.
“I don’t try to overdo anything. I come out, have fun, play my game and let the rest take care of itself. The win is fantastic. That’s all we play for, but maybe (the shutout) was the cherry on top.”
David Desharnais scored twice and another offseason signing, Alexander Radulov, got his first goal as a Canadien with Montoya picking up an assist. Max Pacioretty also scored for Montreal, 2-0-1.
“When you see Monty make some of those saves, it gives us an opportunity to try to get him the shutout and try to get some goals for him,” Pacioretty said. “You have to credit most of that game to him because he was incredible.
“He played great all three games, but tonight, he gave us a chance. After our goal they had a flurry of chances. There were a couple of times in the first period when he had to come up big. The timeliness of those saves allowed us to get some momentum.”
Price fell ill just before the start of the regular season. He got back to work on his own on Sunday and had his first workout with his teammates in the morning skate on Tuesday. It was uncertain if he will be ready to play when the Arizona Coyotes visit Thursday night.
The Penguins, coming off an overtime loss at home Monday night, played their first road game of the season. Pittsburgh outshot the Canadiens 36-32.
“We have to forget these two games and look forward,” Penguins star Evgeni Malkin said. “We have to stay positive right now.
“We knew (Price) was not playing. We know they have a good team. It was opening game for Montreal. And Montoya’s a good goalie too. He saved a lot tonight. But we need to score goals because we have great four lines. We had lots of power plays too (0 for 8), but made lots of mistakes.”
There were 30 shots taken in the first – 17-13 for Pittsburgh – but it was on only the second of the period that Pacioretty opened the scoring at 23 seconds as he took a feed in the slot from Jeff Petry and beat Marc-Andre Fleury with a wrist shot.
Desharnais was parked alone in front of Fleury when he slammed in Pacioretty’s blind, backhand pass from the corner 12:07 into the second.
Radulov scored 4:31 into the third as he burst down the right wing and cut in front. The Penguins challenged, claiming goaltender interference by Brendan Gallagher, but the goal stood.
Desharnais was alone at the side of the net to tap in a cross-ice pass from Jeff Petry at 13:44 after sustained pressure in the Pittsburgh zone.
NOTES: The Canadiens made one lineup change, sending in Brian Flynn for Dan Carr. … Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby (concussion) did not play. … The Penguins went with Fleury in goal for a second consecutive night rather than use backup Mike Condon, who they claimed off waivers from Montreal two weeks ago. Condon lost the backup job in camp to Montoya. … In pre-game introductions, former coach Jacques Demers, recovering from a stroke, brought out a torch in his wheelchair to pass to Pacioretty. Shea Weber, obtained in the deal for P.K. Subban, got the loudest applause of the players on the ice.
Penguins: host San Jose on Thursday.
Candiens: host Arizona on Thursday.