Bo Horvat scored the shootout winner to give the host Vancouver Canucks a 6-5 victory over the Montreal Canadiens Wednesday.
The Canucks captain put a shot between the legs of Montreal goalie Carey Price to seal the win in Vancouver’s home opener.
Horvat and Brock Boeser each had two goals and an assist for Vancouver (2-3-0) in regulation. Tyler Motte also scored for the Canucks, and J.T. Miller notched three assists. Canucks goalie Braden Holtby stopped 31-of-36 shots through regulation and overtime.
Carey Price had 23 saves for the Canadiens (2-0-2), who have yet to be beaten in regulation this season. Former Canuck Tyler Toffoli scored a hat trick for Montreal in regulation, while Jesper Kotkaniemi had a goal and an assist and Brendan Gallagher scored his first goal of the year.
Boeser forced overtime 16:51 into the third period, blasting a snap shot past Price for his second goal of the game. Toffoli had put the Canadiens up by one 32 seconds earlier, deflecting in a shot by Jeff Petry.
Toffoli spent the end of last season in Vancouver after the Canucks acquired him from the L.A. Kings at the trade deadline. He had 10 points (six goals, four assists) in 10 regular-season appearances for Vancouver, then signed a four-year deal, at US$4.25-million per season with Montreal in free agency.
Kotkaniemi had evened the score at 4-4- with a blast from the top of the slot 10:14 into the third period. It was the first goal of the season for the 20-year-old Habs forward.
Horvat had previously broken a 3-3 deadlock with a power-play goal 3:24 into the final frame.
Miller sent the Canucks captain a slick pass from below the goal line and Horvat snapped a shot past Price from the slot.
After struggling through the first four games of the season and failing to convert on 15 opportunities with the man advantage, Vancouver’s power play found its groove Wednesday
The Canucks opened the scoring with a power-play marker 11:07 into the game after Montreal’s Ben Chiarot was called for holding. Miller slid a short pass to Horvat who riffled it in past Price for the Canucks’ first power-play goal of the season.
The home team added another 12:13 into the second frame when Kotkaniemi was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after appearing to say something untoward to an official.
Vancouver’s power play looked strong from the start, with shots from Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes missing the target before Boeser hammered in a rebound.
Motte also scored for the Canucks in the second period, patiently skating deep into Montreal territory and assessing his options before sending a wrist shot past Price.
Vancouver suffered some breakdowns in the second frame, though, starting 1:37 in when the squad lost track of Toffoli during a Canadiens change. Kotkaniemi sent Toffoli the puck and he waltzed deep into the Vancouver zone alone, putting a shot over Holtby’s blocker. It was the 28-year-old centre’s first goal of the year.
Toffoli struck again with a power-play goal 5:27 into the second period after Antoine Roussell was called for interference. Nick Suzuki sent the puck rocketing towards the Vancouver net and Toffoli tipped it in for his second goal of the game. Gallagher added to the Canadiens goals to close out the period, deflecting a pass from Tomas Tatar into the net and ensuring the score was tied at 3-3 heading into the second intermission.
Wednesday’s game marked the first the Canucks played in Vancouver in 316 days. Without fans in the stands, players from both sides could be heard vocally disputing the officials’ calls and cheering teammates on. Simulated crowd noise pumped into the arena sounded similar to the background noise in videogames. Midway through the second period, a video on the big screen over centre ice read “make some noise,” challenging the upper bowl to compete with the lower bowl as both sat empty.
Montreal won’t have to wait long to seek revenge for the loss — the Canadiens and Canucks will face off again in Vancouver on Thursday.
NOTES: Canucks defenceman Jalen Chatfield made his NHL debut. The 24-year-old from Ypsilanti, Mich., went undrafted before signing as a free agent with Vancouver in March 2017.
THE CANADIAN PRESS