MONTREAL - Newcomers to the Canadiens' lineup proved to be serious difference-makers in the preseason finale on Thursday night.
Andrew Shaw scored twice, Shea Weber lit the lamp in his Canadiens debut, and young guns Artturi Lehkonen and Michael McCarron put the puck in the net, too, pacing Michel Therrien's squad to a resounding 6-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Bell Centre.
It marked the end of a busy stretch for the Canadiens, who were playing their seventh preseason game in 11 days. Needless to say, they couldn't have drawn up a better way to close out the exhibition schedule - posting a 4-1-2 record overall - with the start of the regular season in Buffalo less than a week away.
"It feels good. The team played unbelievable. We expect this from the team for the regular season. Everyone was good," said Shaw, one of 14 Canadiens players to factor in on the scoresheet in Thursday night's win - and one of four players to generate multi-point efforts against Mike Babcock's contingent. "We had strong defensive play and we supported the puck all over the ice. It was a good team win."
Video: TOR@MTL: Shaw slides puck by Andersen's stick, scores
A good team win, yes, and a good indicator, according to Shaw, that this group has already grown by leaps and bounds in the short time it has been together at training camp.
"I think the guys have started to come together. There are a lot of new faces this year, so it might have taken a little bit, but I think everyone's starting to feel comfortable and the team chemistry is building," mentioned Shaw, clearly impressed by the way his teammates refused to take their collective feet off the accelerator all game long. "We're going to be focused on that the next week or two [as the season begins]."
Weber, meanwhile, couldn't have asked for a better outcome in his first start in Canadiens colors since coming over from the Nashville Predators in late June. In addition to tallying on a point shot that beat Maple Leafs netminder Frederik Andersen to put the Canadiens up 4-1 early in the middle period, the imposing rearguard also chipped in with seven shots, two hits and three blocked shots while logging 25:24 of ice time.
"It was a lot of fun. It was exciting. There was a lot of energy in the building. It was a great result. It's something we can build on going forward," said Weber, the Canadiens' second-most utilized player behind Nathan Beaulieu against Toronto. "It's always good to win and finish things off the right way in the preseason and get ready for next week against Buffalo."
Video: Shea Weber on his first game in Montreal
For his part, McCarron continued to make his case for a roster spot with the big club by not only scoring what proved to be the game-winning tally at the 5:27 mark of the first period, but also going toe-to-toe with Maple Leafs tough guy Matt Martin after the pair clashed near the benches in the final frame.
"I thought that game ended on a good note. I left a good vibe in their head about me, I think. My job is to make their decision hard and I thought I did that. I think that my audition went well," admitted McCarron, who put up two goals and three points in six preseason outings this time around. "This is a struggle everybody has to go through at some point and I'm happy I did."
Video: Michael McCarron on his training camp experience
In his first appearance with the Canadiens since last November, goaltender Carey Price turned aside 28 of 29 shots against, which really was the icing on the cake on a night when everything went right for a team looking to go into the 2016-17 campaign with positive vibes aplenty.
Like Shaw, Therrien believes things are trending in the right direction early - and he insists that the Bell Centre faithful deserve their fair share of credit for that with another incredible outpouring of support in a big win.
"It was a good game where the new players contributed in a really important way. It was fun to see that. It was the first game for Carey [in Montreal] in a long time. He was very solid. He made big stops and he played with a lot of confidence," said Therrien. "I loved the welcome from our fans to our new players, especially Shea Weber. They proved again that they're the best fans in the league."