Habs' Montoya returns to face Isles, his old team
NEW YORK — Carey Price is a former Hart Memorial Trophy winner as the National Hockey League's most valuable player.
As a veteran of five different teams dating back to the 2008-09 season, Al Montoya is the textbook definition of a journeyman backup.
Price and Montoya have plenty in common this season, though: The Montreal Canadiens simply don't lose in regulation with either one of them in net.
The Canadiens (5-0-1)will look to remain perfect in regulation Wednesday night, when they visit the New York Islanders at Barclays Center. Montreal, the lone NHL team still unbeaten in regulation, is coming off a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday night.
New York (3-3-0) last played Sunday, when it beat the Minnesota Wild 6-3.
Montoya will draw the start Wednesday in place of Price, who started and won each of the Canadiens' past three games. Montoya opened the season by going 2-0-1 as Price recovered from a lengthy bout with the flu.
The game will be a reunion of sorts for Montoya, who played 51 games for the Islanders — the most he has played for any NHL team — while the team was still housed at Nassau Coliseum during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons.
“It'll be a special game,” Montoya said Tuesday. “I spent the start of my career in Long Island. It's a fantastic organization, team and staff. It's a special place for me, but now that they're in Brooklyn, I look forward to going there and getting a win.”
Montoya is 3-0-0 in three career appearances against the Islanders. He last opposed New York on Feb. 3, 2015, when he stopped 32 of the 34 shots he faced in the Florida Panthers' 4-2 win at Nassau Coliseum.
Perhaps the presence of Montoya will help the Canadiens remain among the NHL's elite all season. Montreal opened last year 9-0-0 but fell apart after Price sustained a season-ending knee injury Nov. 25. The Canadiens ended up missing the playoffs entirely with a 38-38-6 record.
Nobody has to remind Montreal coach Michel Therrien how early it is in the season, but he said Tuesday he likes what he is seeing of the Canadiens on and off the ice.
“We got off to a good start last year,” Therrien said. “Guys buy into the team concept. It's important. The atmosphere of this hockey team has been solid since training camp.”
The Islanders will look to maintain the offensive flow they finally found Sunday, when defensemen Johnny Boychuk, Calvin de Haan and Thomas Hickey and centers John Tavares (two goals) and Alan Quine all scored goals in the rout of the Wild.
New York scored three goals or fewer in each of its first five games, the franchise's longest such streak at the start of a season since 2009-10.
“We got some big goals from all parts of the lineup,” Tavares told Newsday. “It takes a little time to find your game and find that rhythm, and I thought we did some good things tonight.”
The Islanders ranked 10th in the NHL in goals scored last season.
“Hopefully that'll give them a boost to get going, to get on the board like that,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said.
No. 1 goalie Jaroslav Halak is likely to start for the Islanders after sitting out Sunday's game in favor of Thomas Greiss. Halak, who is 2-2-0 this season, will also be facing a former team. He played 101 games with the Canadiens during his first four NHL seasons.
The last time Halak faced the Canadiens on Nov. 20, 2015, he was pulled after allowing three goals in the first period of a 5-3 loss. Greiss ended up absorbing the loss in that game after allowing the decisive goal in the second period.