BATHURST - Here are a few key storylines from Wednesday night's 4-3 preseason win over the Florida Panthers in the Kraft Hockeyville game at the KC Irving Centre.
A special day, but also just another game
The Habs-Panthers game followed a full day of Hockeyville celebration that began with a red-carpet welcome for the players in the morning, a packed house for the team's morning skate, and a Q&A session with Canadiens legend Yvan Cournoyer and current players Tomas Tatar and Charles Hudon.
Defenseman Jeff Petry showed his love for the hospitality shown by the communities of Bathurst and Renous during the visit.
"We're here to play a game and for everyone to show what they can do," he said. "But getting here early this morning and seeing everyone who came out to support us and the community was great to see."
Still, once the puck was dropped, Petry affirmed that it was business as usual.
"The ceremony at the beginning was nice," he added. "But once the play started, it was just like every other game."
Video: FLA@MTL: Petry sneaks home a long slap shot
Another strong night for the youngsters
Defenseman Cale Fleury and center Jake Evans earned heaps of praise for their performances in the Habs' first exhibition game on Monday night, and followed that up with another solid night at the office against the Panthers.
Evans said that despite scoring the game-winner against the Devils in his preseason debut, he wasn't happy with his overall performance and thought he took important strides forward in his second go-round.
"I've been talking to some guys, and coach Joel Bouchard texted me too and told me to be on my toes and not to hold back," outlined Evans, who earned an assist on Matthew Peca's opening goal in the first. "I think I did a pretty good job of that tonight."
For his part, Fleury wasn't as hard on himself as his teammate but also gave himself improved marks for his second outing of the preseason. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound defenseman demonstrated his strong skating ability, physical presence, and knack for firing the puck, although he still believes there's room for some tweaking in that last department.
"I like to shoot the puck; I think most defensemen do," explained Fleury, the Canadiens' third-round pick (87th overall) in 2017. "The power is good; the thing I have to work on is to make sure I get it through every time."
In goal, Charlie Lindgren played the whole game and was sharp, stopping 18 of the 21 pucks that came his way.
"I thought he was good. He made some big saves," praised Petry of the American netminder. "I thought he had a good game for us."
Belzile makes an impression
Alex Belzile parlayed his AHL All-Star season into a one-year, two-way contract with the Canadiens this summer, and was given a look on special teams against Florida on Wednesday.
The Habs may not have scored a power play goal against the Cats, but Belzile found an even better way to contribute on special teams as he netted the game-winner while his team was shorthanded with six minutes and change left to play.
Video: FLA@MTL: Belzile puts Canadiens ahead with SHG
"The fourth line scored some big goals. At the end of the game, a really nice goal by Belzile on a pass from [Ryan] Poehling," described head coach Claude Julien. "We saw a lot of great things."
Belzile has spent his career playing in both the ECHL and AHL and knows that in order to get to the next level, he has to make the most of each and every opportunity he's given.
"Every time I get to hit the ice is a chance to get noticed. In my situation, I know I have to have the pedal to the metal every time I'm on the ice and have good work habits," admitted Belzile, who also fed Peca for his tic-tac-toe tally in the opening frame. "I think that's the difference between myself and others. I would say it went well today, but hockey is always resetting. We'll wake up tomorrow and reboot the machine."
The Canadiens have a rematch with the Panthers on Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. at the Bell Centre. For tickets, click here.