Cayden Primeau made an outstanding first impression
It's safe to say that Cayden Primeau will never forget his preseason debut in the NHL ranks.
After coming on in relief of starter Carey Price midway through the second period, the 20-year-old American goaltender turned aside 16 of 17 shots against to pick up the win.
Two of those stops, in particular, were of the highlight-reel variety.
The first was a spectacular sprawling save on Blake Coleman during the second period.
Video: NJD@MTL: Primeau moves across to shut down Coleman
And the crowd responded to Primeau's effort by chanting his name over and over again.
"I couldn't help but crack a smile," said Primeau, regarding the reaction of the Bell Centre faithful. "There were so many emotions. It was unbelievable… You can always dream [of that], but that was something special"
The Voorhees, NJ native followed up his stop on Coleman with another good one on Kyle Palmieri in the final frame to keep the score at 2-2.
Primeau was pleased everything worked out for the best with family and friends in attendance.
"First and foremost, I'm just happy we got the win," said Primeau, the reigning Mike Richter Award winner as the top goaltender in the NCAA. "The fact that I felt good and it ended the way it did, that's just an added bonus."
Make no mistake about it, though, Primeau was a tad nervous before donning his helmet and getting down to work.
"I was just trying not to fall over when I stepped on the ice," cracked Primeau, who was selected in the seventh round, 199th overall by the Habs in 2017.
Video: Cayden Primeau on his performance against New Jersey
But he looked calm, cool and collected the entire time, and earned praise from head coach Claude Julien after the final buzzer.
"He put life into the crowd," said Julien, referencing Primeau's save on Coleman. "He had a good game for a young goaltender and did well."
Jake Evans came through in the clutch
Jake Evans' outstanding solo effort that led to his game-winning goal late in regulation deserves to be watched again and again.
The 23-year-old centerman made a great defensive play before beating Devils goaltender Evan Cormier with an absolute rocket of a shot on a breakaway.
Video: NJD@MTL: Evans forces turnover, pots terrific SHG
"I had an idea where it might be open, so I bust buried my head and shot it," said the Toronto native, who put up 13 goals and 45 points in 67 games with the AHL's Laval Rocket last season. "I was just trying to get that puck out, trying to get a stick on it. I haven't been very good at deking lately, so I thought I'd take a shot. It worked out."
It certainly did, and it was a just reward for a youngster who is looking to open some eyes at training camp this time around.
"For a lot of us here, you're battling for a spot and you're trying to make a good impression, so to get that goal was really cool," explained Evans. "I didn't really like the way I was playing at first, but I'm really happy with the ending. It was a really cool moment."
Nick Suzuki and Cale Fleury were standouts
Centerman Nick Suzuki was the Canadiens' most-utilized forward on Monday night, logging 16:59 of ice time versus New Jersey.
He also saw plenty of action on special teams, both on the power play (1:57) and on the penalty kill (3:13).
"Every time I got on the ice, I tried to make the most of it," said Suzuki, who was featured on a line with Charles Hudon and Jordan Weal. "Coach put me out there in every situation, which was really nice."
Video: Nick Suzuki on his effort versus the Devils
Playing while his club is down a man isn't anything new to Suzuki, so he wholeheartedly embraced the opportunity - even if it came as a surprise.
"I had no idea I'd be playing on the penalty kill, but I'm used to it. I've been doing it basically my whole life," said the 20-year-old London, ON native. "The first one was a little shaky, but I felt more confident as it went on."
During his postgame press conference, Julien was quick to point out the incredible strides Suzuki has made over the last 12 months.
"He's one year older, so he has the experience of being at training camp last year. He also got stronger. He's a lot stronger than last year. One thing's for sure, he isn't lacking in confidence, especially with the season he had," mentioned Julien. "He really believes in himself. The difference is a guy who worked really hard to improve his skating, and he's stronger. The experience of an extra year makes a difference."
On the back end, Cale Fleury performed up to his potential as well.
"He was probably one of our best defensemen tonight," praised Julien, after watching the 20-year-old rearguard's effort during his 19:02 of ice time.
Fleury even started the play that led to Nate Thompson's goal in the first period.
Video: NJD@MTL: Thompson puts home rebound to extend lead
"Cale was awesome. He was playing like he's been playing here for a while," said Evans, of his Rocket teammate. "He was confident and poised, and made some really good plays."