MONTREAL – Brian Gionta’s back, and he feels like he didn’t miss a beat.
The Canadiens’ captain, in his first game since leaving last year’s playoffs with a biceps injury, ended the night with an assist and three shots on net in Montreal’s 3-1 pre-season win over Ottawa.
“I felt great,” said Gionta. “Everything was good. I felt like my timing was pretty good. I’m happy.”
Gionta assisted on Tomas Plekanec’s game-winning-goal in the second period. He said his injury didn’t bother him at all.
“Overall I thought in the second period we started to assert ourselves a little better and play our game.
“It’s your last game, you want to feel good about yourself going into the first game of the season. We accomplished that with a pretty great effort all the way through.”
Gionta and the Canadiens were helped by a solid performance by Carey Price – his best of the pre-season – who stopped 29 of 30 shots.
“As a team it’s nice to get together as an almost complete unit,” said Price.
“It’s always good to get into the regular season with the win. We’d like to get better. There are a few areas of our game that we’d like to improve on. We’d like to smooth some of the things out.”
Price only allowed one goal, to the Senators’ Cory Conacher, who’s had the Canadiens’ number since last year’s playoffs when he scored three times in the series against the Habs.
This was Montreal’s second game in two nights against the Senators. Ottawa beat Montreal 5-2 on Wednesday.
The Senators, who have played three games in as many nights, fielded a much younger and less-experienced team on Thursday. Veterans Jason Spezza, Chris Neil, and Erik Karlsson were healthy scratches.
Ottawa coach Paul MacLean thinks the result – achieved with a young team – is indicative of the Senators depth.
“It’s a great credit to our team that we’re able to come in here with the team we had and play the way we did,” said MacLean.
“I thought a lot of players gave a very good account of themselves. The growth that we get from the loss is really going to help a lot of our players down the road.”
After Conacher opened the scoring for Ottawa at 5:09 of the first, Alex Galchenyuk tied the score late in the period, completing a nice tic-tac-toe play between him, Lars Eller, and Daniel Briere.
Plekanec put the Canadiens in front at 18:06 of the second period, firing a shot in the roof of the net from the face-off circle to goaltender Craig Anderson’s right.
Max Pacioretty doubled the Canadiens’ lead mid-way through the final period.
The Senators outshot Montreal 30-25.
Earlier in the day, the Canadiens assigned forward Christian Thomas and defenceman Greg Pateryn to the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL.
After the game, the Habs cut Nathan Beaulieu and Gabriel Dumont from the roster.
Montreal opens the regular season at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday, Oct. 1.