Montreal’s top goal scorer from the past three seasons is off to a promising start, and its Hart and Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender is doing exactly what the team expects.
Max Pacioretty and Carey Price have also guided the Canadiens to plenty of recent success against Boston, and winning there Saturday night would send the Bruins to their first 0-2 start in a decade.
The Canadiens opened the season with Wednesday’s 3-1 win in Toronto, and Pacioretty got things started with a goal just over three minutes in before wrapping up the game with an empty-netter. P.K. Subban assisted on all three of Montreal’s goals.
Pacioretty, whose 76 goals over the past two seasons are tied for third behind Alex Ovechkin and Joe Pavelski, scored the league’s first goal for the second straight season.
"It’s exciting because our team showed flashes of what we’re capable of doing," Pacioretty told the team’s official website. "We didn’t put together 60 minutes, but it’s definitely inspiring knowing that we’re able to play a certain way. I think when we’re on our game, we’re a very tough team to play against."
In the moments when that was absent, Price stepped up as Montreal was outshot 37-30.
"We obviously would’ve liked to maintain a little bit more offensive-zone pressure," Price said. "But at the end of the day it worked for us, and we’ll definitely take the win."
The Canadiens have taken plenty against Boston with six straight victories dating to the final two contests of the 2014 Eastern Conference semifinals. Price has been in goal for all six with a 1.17 goals-against average and .960 save percentage, while Pacioretty has six goals and four assists. Montreal also has won all six regular-season visits to Boston since the start of 2012-13 – no other team has won there more than three times in that span.
Boston started the season with Thursday’s 6-2 home loss to Winnipeg, turning in a messy final 40 minutes after David Krejci gave the Bruins a first-period lead.
"We kind of got away from our defensive game," said Krejci, who has gone his last 16 games against Montreal without a goal. "I thought we did a pretty god job of creating a bunch of scoring chances but on the other hand, totally forgot about our defensive game. So that’s what happened."
Nevertheless, the goal might have been an individual relief for Krejci, who was limited to 31 points in 47 games a season ago with 0.66 points per game marking his lowest since 2009-10.
Thursday’s defensive lapses were likely due in part to the absence of Zdeno Chara, who remains out following a preseason upper-body injury. Fellow defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, who played all 82 games last season, will miss an extended period as he recovers from back surgery.
"It’s not just (Chara) being out of the lineup," goaltender Tuukka Rask told the team’s official website. "Guys are going to get hurt. We have to have guys step up, and we have to respect our game plan defensively, offensively, and we’ll be OK. When we don’t, these kind of things happen."
The 2013-14 Vezina winner gave up five goals on 31 shots, and he’s lost his last five starts against Montreal with a 3.40 GAA.
The Bruins last lost their first two games in 2005-06, and they’re particularly motivated to avoid doing so this year after kicking opportunity down the road last season and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2006-07.
"You know, too many times we’ve done that last year," said Patrice Bergeron, who is without a point in his last eight games against the Canadiens. "… We can’t just sit here and say that we generated some good chances and what not. We’ve got to find some results and we’ve got to keep harping on that (Friday) and be better on Saturday."