MONTREAL – On the night the Montreal Canadiens turned 100, they played like the great teams of old.
Mike Cammalleri made like Rocket Richard with three goals and Carey Price like Georges Vezina with a 37-save effort as the Canadiens celebrated their 100th anniversary with a 5-1 victory over the Boston Bruins on Friday night.
“We all played inspired hockey,” said Price. “There were a lot of faces here I grew up watching.
“We really wanted to win this one. We were pumped up watching the guys out there and chatting with vets who won championships. We wanted to win for them as well. We’re all pretty proud to be Canadiens tonight.”
The Canadiens, founded eight years before the NHL was formed on Dec. 4, 1909, marked the occasion with a nostalgic 75-minute pre-game ceremony in which the jerseys of 1940s greats Elmer Lach and Butch Bouchard were retired.
Then they went out and skated like their record 24 Stanley Cup teams from the past, with opportunistic goals, tight defence when it was needed and superb goaltending.
The performance had the sell-out crowd of 21,273 – already on a high from a ceremony packed with stars of the past – in a roar for most of the night.
“Hopefully it had an inspiring effect,” added Cammalleri, whose team was coming off two consecutive weak efforts including a 6-2 loss in Buffalo on Thursday night. “We played two games we weren’t happy with and I’d hope we would have played like that anyway, but for sure, it hit an emotional chord.”
Cammalleri’s three goals came in a four-goal second period, while Glen Metropolit and Jaroslav Spacek also scored for Montreal (13-14-2), which ended a four-game winless run in a game witnessed by dozens of former greats, including Hall of Famers like Jean Beliveau, Guy Lafleur, Patrick Roy and even former Detroit star Gordie Howe.
Vladimir Sobotka scored for the Bruins (14-9-5), who looked to have no legs after waiting out the ceremony. They ended a seven-game string without a loss in regulation time. And goaltender Tim Thomas was pulled after allowing five goals on 23 shots in two periods in favour of Tuukka Rask.
Thomas refused to blame the ceremonies.
“I don’t think that was it – I don’t know what happened,” he said. “From top to bottom, that was one of our worst efforts of the year.”
The Canadiens were jubilant in their dressing room, where Hollywood actor Viggo Mortensen, who introduced Lafleur during the ceremonies, shook hands with players from his favourite club.
“It was awesome,” said Mortensen. “I’m sure Cammalleri will never forget tonight.”
He got that right.
“This was amazing for anyone who is a fan of sports,” Cammalleri said. “I can’t express what it means, it’s such a special thing.”
For the first time in nine games, the Canadiens came out of the first period with a lead as Spacek got the only goal on a blast from the point just as a power play ended at 8:30.
On a night of many standing ovations, the Canadiens got another as they killed a two-man Boston advantage for a full two minutes early in the second frame. Only half a minute after returning to full strength, Tomas Plekanec shot wide on a breakaway but Cammalleri followed in to score at 8:10.
Matt Hunwick slid the puck to his goaltender, but Thomas let it slip out in front for Cammalleri to pounce on and score for a 3-0 lead.
Metropolit was at the side of the net to tip in a diagonal pass from Gill at 16:07 and Cammalleri one-timed a pass from Scott Gomez past Thomas for his 15th of the season at 17:29.
The Bell Centre was littered with caps for the hat-trick, as well as one Bruins sweater thrown in by a spectator, while Cammalleri wore an ear-to-ear smile.
“I’ll never forget that noise,” he said. “What else can you say but wow.”
Sobotka tipped a point shot by Matt Hunwick past Price 4:45 into the third period.
Montreal winger Sergei Kostitsyn left the game in the second period with a knee injury, but said later he felt OK and did not expect to miss any games. Coach Jacques Martin said more would be known on the injury when Kostitsyn is examined on Saturday.
Among the pre-recorded scoreboard tributes to the Canadiens shown throughout the game were messages from Alex Ovechkin, Martin Brodeur, Vladislav Tretiak, Don Cherry (who was booed), as well as Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The Canadiens rarely play at home on Friday nights, but their all-time record in those games is 10-0-4.
Notes: Georges Laraque returned after serving a five-game suspension for a nasty trip on Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall and Gill was back after 14 games off with a foot injury. That bumped rookies Tom Pyatt and Ryan White from the Montreal lineup. . . With seven defencemen dressed, Marc-Andre Bergeron skated on left wing on the fourth line. . . Former Montreal captain Mike Keane took a game off from the AHL Manitoba Moose to attend the ceremonies. “This only happens once in 100 years, I’m not going to miss it,” he said. . . When Bouchard’s No. 3 was retired before the game, defenceman Ryan O’Byrne changed to No. 20.