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A quality start

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

SUNRISE – Ben Scrivens didn’t register a win in his Canadiens debut, but he definitely opened plenty of eyes on Tuesday night.

The 29-year-old netminder made 26 stops – including 12 in the opening 20 minutes of play – in the Canadiens’ 3-1 loss to the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center, keeping his new team within striking distance in a contest between the top two squads in the Atlantic Division. Unfortunately, Scrivens’ stellar work between the pipes wasn’t enough to earn his first NHL victory since March 25, when he was still a member of the Edmonton Oilers.

“Personally, I felt pretty good. I got tested early and I thought I handled it well. Obviously, there’s stuff to build off of and pace of play and the skill level at the NHL level is a step above. Overall, just personally, I thought it was a good start,” offered Scrivens, who was acquired from Edmonton on Monday in exchange for Zack Kassian. “I thought I made some good saves and battled. That’s all I was trying to accomplish out there.”

The Cornell University grad did just that on Tuesday night, proving that he still has the goods to play in the NHL ranks – even if the Oilers didn’t think so when they assigned Scrivens to their AHL affiliate in Bakersfield back in early October. Since then, Scrivens has been plying his trade in Southern California and hoping that another opportunity would present itself at some point in time. That chance came when general manager Marc Bergevin elected to secure his services once the NHL roster freeze came to a close at midnight on December 27.

“I feel like I can play at this level. Things didn’t work out perfectly in Edmonton, but it’s a business, first and foremost. I’m happy to be here in Montreal. My goal is to give the team a chance to win whenever the coach says I’m in net that night. Personally, it’s a good challenge,” explained Scrivens, who has 130 games of NHL experience on his resume during stints with Toronto, Los Angeles, Edmonton and now with Montreal. “I think I’m ready. I thought I played pretty well tonight. Hopefully, I can build off of it going forward.”

Scrivens’ task in his first start with the CH wasn’t made any easier going up against the likes of a Panthers contingent that had rattled off six straight wins coming into the game. Gerard Gallant’s group also boasts one of the finest top lines the NHL has to offer with center Aleksander Barkov flanked by veteran Jaromir Jagr and fellow young gun Jonathan Huberdeau. Needless to say, they weren’t about to make life pleasant for Scrivens on their own turf.

“They’ve been playing great hockey. Their whole team has been playing well. We knew it was going to be a challenge,” offered Scrivens, who surrendered two goals to Barkov and another to Jagr, as the talented trio combined to generate six total points against the Canadiens. “The second half of a back-to-back is tough. You need to keep it simple. I thought we tried to. A couple of times out there, our D-men were trying to collect pucks and make a quick play. That’s what our game plan was. It just wouldn’t settle down for them, so we let a little bit of that stuff creep in. That always hurts execution, which could have been our downfall.”

Final result aside, Scrivens sincerely appreciated the chance to get right to work in Sunrise – even if he had little time to get acclimated to his new surroundings.

“You want to play all the time. You can play devil’s advocate and say a couple of practices could have been good also. There’s no other way to cut it. I played. I was definitely happy to get in there,” admitted Scrivens, who hadn’t seen NHL action since April 11 prior to Tuesday night’s game. “I thought I played alright.”

Head coach Michel Therrien thought so, too.

“You know what, he wasn’t just good. He was really, really good,” praised Therrien, whose squad will travel to Boston on Wednesday in preparation for the 2016 NHL Winter Classic coming up on New Year’s Day. “I really liked the way he played.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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