Toronto — Montreal coach Claude Julien figured his young, largely inexperienced Canadiens had a real opportunity to grow after being given a second life by the NHL’s restart.
The Canadiens did that, and a whole lot more, Saturday night — with a big hand from a couple veterans.
Jeff Petry (Ann Arbor/Michigan State) scored at 13:57 of overtime, Carey Price made 39 saves and the Montreal Canadiens beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 on Saturday night in Game 1 of their best-of-five qualifying round series.
“Carey was huge throughout that whole first period and gave us a chance,” Julien said. “He made some big saves throughout the whole game, but the first period is where he allowed us to stay in the game.”
Petry, who along with Price are two of the Canadiens’ oldest players at 32, picked up a loose puck in the right faceoff circle and ripped a shot past goalie Matt Murray.
“We’re playing an experienced team,” Julien said. “They’ve won Stanley Cups, they know how to win, and we have what we have. The only chance we have is that we play on our toes and not on our heels.”
The game was played at empty Scotiabank Arena in the NHL’s return following a 142-day absence after COVID-19 ground the sport to a halt.
Jonathan Drouin had a chance to win it for Montreal in overtime on a penalty shot when he was held on a breakaway, but the puck rolled off the end of his stick and dribbled wide.
Pittsburgh’s Conor Sheary also failed on a penalty shot with 3:03 left in regulation, missing the net. The game was the first NHL postseason contest with two penalty shots since March 29, 1923.
Nineteen-year-old Jesperi Kotkaniemi and 20-year-old Nick Suzuki scored to give 12th-seeded Montreal a 2-0 lead early in the second period.
“It gives us a lot of confidence,” Suzuki said. “A lot of people didn’t see us as contenders. We want to show them we can compete with anyone. This is a good first step.”
The fifth-seeded Penguins rallied midway through the period with Sidney Crosby and Bryan Rust connecting in a 2:39 span.
“We’ve just got to heed the lessons,” Rust said. “We did some really good things.”
Montreal killed off a 5-on-3 power play for 1:32 early in the third period despite sustained pressure. Both teams then failed to connect on 5-on-4 advantages, with Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin coming closest from the slot.
Murray stopped 32 shots.
More NHL playoffs
Chicago 6, Edmonton 4: Rookie winger Dominik Kubalik had two goals and three assists to help the Blackhawks beat the host Oilers in Game 1 of the best-of-five qualifying round series.
The game was played in front of tarps, massive video screens, and empty seats at Rogers Place, which is hosting the 12 Western Conference teams as the NHL completes the 2019-20 season.
Kubalik scored twice in the second period, the first goal chasing starter Mike Smith from the Oilers net (five goals on 23 shots), and the second getting past Mikko Koskinen to make it 6-2. Kubalik had 30 goals and 16 assists before regular-season play was halted in mid-March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews added two goals and an assist, Dylan Strome, Brandon Saad also scored.
Connor McDavid had a goal and three assists for Edmonton, and Leon Draisaitl, James Neal and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins also scored.
N.Y. Islanders 2, Florida 1: In Toronto, Semyon Varlamov stopped 27 shots and New York opened the series with a victory over Florida.
Anthony Beauvillier scored on a power play at 3:39 of the second period. The goal came a little over a minute after Florida’s Mike Matheson was penalized for a hit to the head on defenseman Johnny Boychuk, who did not return.
Islanders trade deadline addition Jean-Gabriel Pageau opened the scoring re-directing in Derick Brassard’s centering pass 12 minutes into the game. Jonathan Huberdeau scored 23 seconds into the third for Florida,
Carolina 3, N.Y. Rangers 2: In Toronto, Sebastian Aho had a goal and an assist in Carolina’s opening victory over New York. Jaccob Slavin scored 1:01 seconds in on Carolina’s first shot on goal. Martin Necas also scored and Petr Mrazek stopped 24 shots. Mika Zibanejad and Marc Staal scored for the Rangers.
Calgary 4, Jets 1: In Edmonton, Johnny Gaudreau, Tobias Rieder and Mikael Backlund scored in the second period to erase a first-period goal by the Jets' Andrew Copp (Ann Arbor/Michigan). Andrew Mangiapane added an unassisted goal with 1:41 left while Cam Talbot turned away 17 of 18 shots for the Flames.