MONTREAL - There really isn't anything quite like a home opener at the Bell Centre. The atmosphere and the energy in the building are second to none. Period.
On Tuesday night, the Canadiens stormed out of the gate following emotional pre-game ceremonies and never looked back in a 4-0 shutout victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Mere minutes after former head coach Jacques Demers passed the torch to Max Pacioretty, the Canadiens' captain scored what proved to be the game-winning tally just 23 seconds into the contest, beating goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury with a wrist shot from the faceoff circle that sent the already raucous crowd into a serious frenzy.
Video: PIT@MTL: Pacioretty obtains torch from Demers, scores
David Desharnais would go on to score a pair of goals, while Alexander Radulov would also find the back of the net, too, for his first career goal in a Canadiens uniform. Al Montoya, meanwhile, claimed first-star honors for his 36-save performance and first shutout since December 31, 2013 when he was still plying his trade for the Winnipeg Jets.
Newcomers like Montoya simply couldn't say enough about just how powerful the pre-game festivities proved to be.
"That was awesome. I've been a part of a couple of ceremonies, but that must have been one of the most special ones. This crowd outdid themselves. Hats off to them. It really sparked the team. I think it might have fired up the other team, too," said Montoya, who now boasts a 2-0-1 record, a 1.30 goals-against average and a .962 save percentage in three starts with Montreal. "I had no idea what to expect. To step on the ice, the presentation and everything that goes into that, it just shows you how much tradition goes with the Canadiens. It starts with the people and the fans. Us players just enjoy the rest."
One player who certainly enjoyed himself was Radulov, the man responsible for the Canadiens' third goal of the night - a highlight-reel marker that was eventually deemed to be a good goal after the Penguins elected to challenge it on the basis of goaltender interference.
It marked the first time Radulov had registered his name on an NHL scoresheet during regular-season play since April 7, 2012 when he was in his second stint with the Nashville Predators before returning to Russia for four seasons.
Video: PIT@MTL: Radulov shows off patience to pad lead
"I never saw something like that [before]. It was really nice," praised Radulov, who did everything in his power to avoid being overwhelmed by the incredible reception he received, tough as it may have been to put it out of his mind. "I tried to not like pay attention to it, though. I tried to focus on the game. The opening game is important to all the fans. They were missing hockey all summer. It's nice to start it here at home.
"It's a good feeling. It's a nice feeling," added the Canadiens' No. 47, referencing the crowd reaction on his third-period goal. "I'm just going to keep working hard and doing everything to make sure my partners are going to be better, and I'll try to make them better so we can try to win every game we play. That's our goal."
Big victory aside, everyone in the Canadiens' locker room had something to say about Senator Demers' presence on Tuesday night, including head coach Michel Therrien. The 72-year-old, who suffered a stroke back in April, was given a warm and heartfelt greeting by all those in attendance.
"Once again, the organization demonstrated a lot of class. The opening ceremonies were really special for me," said Therrien, before expanding upon his relationship with the long-time NHL bench boss. "Jacques Demers isn't just a personal friend, but also a person I have great respect for - for his career and the man that he is. It was fun to see him and it was very emotional when I went to get him [to bring him towards the ice]."
That really did set the tone for a remarkable evening that everyone involved won't soon forget.