BOSTON - The Canadiens kicked off the regular season in dramatic fashion on Wednesday night. With the game tied and overtime looming, Michael Ryder scored with only 12 seconds remaining to give Montreal a 2-1 win on opening night in Boston.
Ryder, who surely hasn't forgotten having lost out to Bruins goalie Andrew Raycroft for rookie-of-the-year honors in 2003-04, got a little payback when he swatted a loose puck past Raycroft for the game-winner. Alex Kovalev and Saku Koivu assisted on the power-play marker, on a night where the Bruins seemed well on their way to victory.
Boston outshot Montreal 30-21 and dominated at times, most notably in the second period. They tossed 12 shots at Jose Theodore while the Canadiens sent just three shots in Andrew Raycroft's direction, the first of which came with only four minutes remaining in the frame.
Theodore was solid in stopping 29-of-30 Bruins shots on the night, as he picked up where he left off in Game 7 of the Canadiens' opening round series win over Boston in 2004. That night in Boston, he shut out the Bruins to cap off Montreal's first ever comeback from a 3-1 series deficit.
The Canadiens' first goal of the 2005-06 season belonged to Jan Bulis who broke in on Raycroft and fought off a Bruins defenseman before firing a shot up high on Raycroft's glove side. Niklas Sundstrom and Radek Bonk drew assists on the play, with Bonk collecting not only his first point as a Montreal Canadien but also the Czech centreman's 400th career point.
Tonight marked the 11th time these two longtime rivals opened the season against one another with the Canadiens now leading 6-2-3 in those contests. The last time they opened against each other was Oct. 8, 1963 at the Boston Garden with the teams battling to a 4-4 tie. The Canadiens now boast a 47-26-15 all-time record on opening night while the Bruins fall to 34-31-16.
Richard Zednik saw just over five minutes of ice-time in the opening period before leaving the game with a groin injury. Training camp standout Tomas Plekanec took Zednik's place on the top line alongside with Kovalev and Koivu. Despite playing in only his second career NHL game, Plekanec also saw regular duty on the penalty kill as the Canadiens shutdown the Bruins, who were 0-for-7 on the night with the man advantage. The Canadiens, who had the league's second-ranked power-play during the preseason, went 1-for-5 on Wednesday.
Montreal will now travel to New York to take on the Rangers on Thursday night, before ending their season-opening road trip with a date with the Maple Leafs Saturday in Toronto. The Canadiens will then host the Ottawa Senators in their home opener at the Bell Centre on Tuesday night.
NOTES: Claude Julien's lines on opening night were: Kovalev-Koivu-Zednik, Pierre Dagenais-Mike Ribeiro-Ryder, Bulis-Bonk-Sundstrom, Chris Higgins-Steve Begin- Plekanec.. As for the blueline the pairings: Mathieu Dandenault-Sheldon Souray, Mike Komisarek-Francis Bouillon, Andrei Markov-Craig Rivet... Scratches on the night were rookies: Mark Streit, Raitis Ivanans and Alexander Perezhogin... A sellout was crowd of 17,565 was on hand at TD Banknorth Garden with the crowd giving a lengthy standing ovation following the puck drop on the opening face-off... Despite standing at only 5-foot-8, Francis Bouillon led the Canadiens with three hits, and leveled 6-foot-4, 223-pound Joe Thornton early in the first period to set the tone for the night.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com