For the first time since 1993, the Montreal Canadiens will play a home opener coming off an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final.
Through two games, this version of the Canadiens is not resembling a team with a chance at the Stanley Cup. They hope to rectify some of their early struggles Saturday night when they host the winless New York Rangers, who rarely win in Montreal.
Montreal is playing its first meaningful home game since Josh Anderson scored the game-winner 3:57 into overtime in Game 4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning on July 5. Montreal lost the series in five games — the same amount of games it took for them to win their last Stanley Cup in 1993.
The Canadiens began this season with eight players on injured reserve, including goaltender Carey Price.
With Price in the NHL/NHL Players’ Association joint player assistance program, Montreal is using Jake Allen and Sam Montembeault in goal. Allen drew the start when the Canadiens dropped a 2-1 decision to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday, and Montembeault allowed five goals on 36 shots in his Montreal debut during Thursday’s 5-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres.
The Canadiens trailed 2-0 after one period and allowed two goals in a span of 1:59 late in the second period before allowing their third power-play goal of the game in the third.
Montreal returns home off to its first 0-2-0 start since the 2000-01 season. The Canadiens hope to avoid their first 0-3 start since opening 1995-96 with five straight losses.
“It’s obviously early in the season, but these points at the beginning of the year are critical,” Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher said. “You don’t want to put yourself in a hole, so obviously to start 0-2, there’s a lot of urgency on the next one.”
The Canadiens also hope to correct their issues with a power play that is 0-for-8 and a penalty-killing unit that has allowed four goals so far.
“We need to simplify it,” Montreal defenseman Jeff Petry said. “On our entries, we have to make sure we get the puck in first and then get set and move the puck around. We have to get shots on the net, and things will open up from there.”
The Rangers, starting a four-game trip on Saturday, are winless through two games for the third time in five seasons. They allowed three power-play goals in a 5-1 loss to the host Washington Capitals and earned a point by overcoming a two-goal deficit in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars in Thursday’s home opener.
Chris Kreider and Adam Fox scored for the Rangers, who started slowly before coming on midway through the second period. The Rangers went 0-for-4 on their power play, including when they took five shots on their final man advantage in the third.
“We started playing more with the puck,” Kreider said. “We cycled. We were coming at them in waves. We were doing a good job of not turning pucks over, getting pucks to the net quickly, supporting each other, moving our feet. We have to do that for a full 60.”
The Rangers are making their first trip to Montreal since a 5-2 win on Feb. 27, 2020, when they rallied from a 2-0 deficit by scoring five times in the final 21-plus minutes. The Rangers are 4-13-2 in their past 19 trips to Montreal and are seeking three straight wins there for the first time since Feb. 25, 1978-March 10, 1979.
–Field Level Media