RALEIGH - Here are a few key storylines from Thursday night's 4-3 shootout loss to the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena.
Fast-paced first one
The first game of the season was a high-flying, fast-paced affair that saw both teams taking turns turning up the heat. Head coach Claude Julien was asked about the playoff-like feel to the contest, and was pleased he wasn't the only one who noticed the intensity.
"I'm glad you guys saw it that way too," Julien replied to reporters. "I was impressed, honestly, with the pace of this game from both teams. It was a fast-paced game, it was hard-fought, there were battles along the walls, and there were a lot of battles in front of the net. No doubt, both teams were trying to make a point here tonight. At the end of the day, you like the effort of your team and you're disappointed that the point slipped away, but it's a hard-earned point against a pretty good hockey club."
The goaltender might generally have a different view at his end of the ice, but Carey Price shared his coach's perspective on the level of play.
"It's a fast League for sure. We were trading chances and there was a lot of speed out there," shared the 32-year-old netminder, who made 40 saves on the night. "It's definitely an exciting game."
Video: MTL@CAR: Price reaches back to rob Haula
Drou gels with the Finns
Skating on a line with Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Joel Armia, forward Jonathan Drouin registered a shot, a hit, and earned an assist on Jesperi Kotkaniemi's second-period equalizer, and the Ste. Agathe native enjoyed the chemistry he felt with his trio.
"The three of us played a good game, Armia too. We looked at each other before the game. We know we had some tough games last year. For us, it's just important to work," outlined Drouin, who collected his 100th point in a Canadiens uniform. "We have talent and we're able to make plays. If we work and we have the puck on our stick, we'll be able to create some plays. I think KK took another step forward tonight."
The sophomore centerman knew all along he'd find success on the line.
"I was trusting all the time that we would play well together," added Kotkaniemi, who scored his first career road goal on Thursday.
Video: MTL@CAR: Kotkaniemi dekes, snipes home quick shot
Strong debuts for Suzuki, Fleury
Playing in their NHL debuts, both Nick Suzuki and Cale Fleury fit right in and handled the pace of play deftly. Fleury saw 14:52 of ice time, registering one shot, one blocked shot, and four hits.
When it comes to the physicality he displayed against Carolina, the 20-year-old rearguard said he was just doing his thing.
"It's kind of just how I play," explained Fleury. "It's not really something I'm going to go out and look for but if it's there, I'll do it."
He wasn't all brawn, however. Fleury demonstrated poise with the puck and a strong skating ability - and he even got to try his hand at a breakaway, although he was denied by Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek.
"Probably the last thing I was expecting was a breakaway today, but I thought I made a good move," described Fleury. "I just couldn't get over his pad."
Price was impressed with how the rookie defender made out against a challenging opponent.
"He played very well. It's not an easy team to come in and play against in your first game," praised the Habs netminder. "They brought a lot of pressure on their forecheck and I thought he handled himself very well."
Suzuki, meanwhile, was deployed for 13:39 of action, including 1:38 of power play time. He was held off the scoresheet despite registering a pair of shots on net, but Julien liked his game and gave him the third and final chance in the shootout which would've kept the Canadiens alive to fight another round.
"He's good at it, so why not. We always seem surprised that a young player comes in and does those things. I think he's proven that he's very good at it. Just because he didn't score tonight, it doesn't mean he's not a smart player," concluded Julien. "We've seen him score some nice shootout goals in the past, not just with us but with his other teams."
Video: MTL@CAR: Tatar trims deficit with solid PPG
Following the game, the Canadiens headed straight to Toronto. They'll face the Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday at 7:00 p.m.