The Canadiens' George Parros is tended to by Canadiens staff after falling head first on the ice during a fight in a game against the Maple Leafs on Tuesday at the Bell Centre in Montreal. (Richard Wolowicz / Getty Images)
Montreal — Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle had a feeling that James Reimer would rise to the occasion in the team’s NHL regular-season opener.
He was right.
Reimer made 34 saves, and Mason Raymond scored the winning goal in his first game with the Maple Leafs as Toronto beat the rival Montreal Canadiens 4-3 in a fight-filled opener on Tuesday night.
One of the fights led to a scary moment when Montreal’s new enforcer George Parros was carried off on a stretcher in the third period after he fell on his face during his second bout of the night with Colton Orr. Parros sustained a concussion and went to hospital for further evaluation.
Between the five fights in the game, Reimer won his fourth straight start against Montreal.
“That was the hunch,” Carlyle said. “He’s played very well in this building in the time I’ve been here. I felt he gave us the best chance to win.”
Reimer got the nod over Jonathan Bernier, who joined the Maple Leafs from the Los Angeles Kings in the offseason. Reimer proved his coach right, even if he doesn’t acknowledge the debate regarding who should Toronto’s starting goalie.
“When I’m in there, I’m not competing against anybody on my team,” Reimer said. “That’s not what it’s about.
“I’m competing against the other team, not the guys sitting beside me. They gave me the nod and I wanted to make the most of it and play my hardest for my teammates. Luckily enough, we won.”
Tyler Bozak scored a short-handed goal at 17:19 of the second period, and Raymond netted the winner 5:10 into the third before Lars Eller’s second of the night closed the gap to one goal with 2:22 left.
The Canadiens pushed hard in the closing minutes, but couldn’t score the tying goal.
“The execution by our team was not there,” Montreal coach Michel Therrien said. “A lack of execution with the puck led to two goals, and a lack of focus without the puck cost the other two.”
James van Riemsdyk and Dion Phaneuf also scored for Toronto, which will play again Wednesday night in Philadelphia.
Eller’s three-point night included an assist on Brendan Gallagher’s goal for Montreal, which will also face Philadelphia next at home on Saturday night.
The Canadiens’ 350th consecutive sellout crowd was electric as usual for a Montreal-Toronto game, and it didn’t lack for action.
But the mood turned somber 2:34 into the third period when Parros was prone on the ice. Orr had fallen and pulled down Parros, who was bleeding and looked woozy. A team of trainers from both teams spent several minutes treating him.
“Give credit to our training staff, our medical staff,” Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges said. “The doctors were out there in five seconds. They didn’t waste any time. I just hope he’s all right.”
The crowd chanted Parros’ name as he was wheeled off the ice.
Carlyle credited his team’s special teams for the win. The unit produced the short-handed goal from Bozak and opened the scoring on a power play.
“I thought out special teams were the difference in the game,” he said. “The short-handed goal turned everything in our favor, and the power play got us going.
“But I liked that when we got up 4-2 we were able to play more of the grind game in the offensive zone and chew the clock up.”
Toronto re-signs Kessel
The Maple Leafs and F Phil Kessel have agreed to terms on an eight-year, $64 million extension Tuesday.
The deal was signed hours before the Maple Leafs road opener against the Canadiens on Tuesday night.
Kessel had one season left on his previous deal at $5.4 million.
“I’ll be on the hook for some team dinners here or there, but I don’t mind,” Kessel said during a news conference. “This is the place I want to play. I want to finish my career here. It’s a great city, the organization’s unbelievable, and I’m really excited to continue here.”
Kessel, a two-time All-Star who turns 26 on Wednesday, was drafted by the Bruins fifth overall in 2006. The deal includes a limited no-trade clause.
Sabres coach Ron Rolston announced forward Thomas Vanek will wear the “C” during home games, while forward Steve Ott will serve as captain on the road. Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff was named the team’s alternate captain.
... The Penguins placed defenseman Kris Letang and goalie Tomas Vokoun on the injured list.
Letang will be out at least until Friday with what coach Dan Bylsma (Grand Haven) called a lower-body injury. The Norris Trophy finalist went down last Friday and was re-evaluated in Pittsburgh Monday.
Vokoun is out indefinitely with blood clots in his pelvic region.