MONTREAL - Here are a few key storylines from Monday night's 3-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets at the Bell Centre.
A strong debut for Kovy
In his first game with the Canadiens, newcomer Ilya Kovalchuk proved that he still has some serious game.
The Russian sniper made the most of his 19:25 of ice time by collecting an assist, registering four shots on goal, and dishing out a team-leading six hits along the way.
Not too shabby for a 36-year-old who hadn't seen game action since November 9 when he was still a member of the Los Angeles Kings.
Welcomed by the Bell Centre faithful with open arms, Kovalchuk relished every second of his Montreal debut.
"It's been an unbelievable few days so far," said Kovalchuk, following the final buzzer. "The way the fans responded and the guys welcomed me, I appreciated it very much."
Nevertheless, the 13-year NHL veteran desperately wanted to get the Canadiens back on the winning track.
That would have made the night a true success.
"It's frustrating, because Pricey gave us some unbelievable saves in the second to keep us in the game and a few mistakes cost us," explained Kovalchuk, referencing Price's 24-save performance. "But I liked the way we fought until the end. It says a lot that we never give up. It's a bump in the road, but we're going to keep working and keep getting better."
Video: Ilya Kovalchuk on his first game with the Habs
The good news is that Kovalchuk can clearly be a difference-maker going forward.
He fit right in playing on a line with Tomas Tatar and Phillip Danault, and will undoubtedly help the power play click on a more consistent basis.
"I can be much better, but coach gave me a lot of ice time and I was finding my game," mentioned Kovalchuk. "We've still got a long way to go. We tried to pass a little bit too much on the power play. We've got to be a little more simple and shoot the puck."
A good first impression
Kovalchuk's new teammates were impressed with every facet of his game.
"He was really good offensively," praised Danault, after watching the former Maurice Richard Trophy winner put his skills on display against the Jets. "He was winning his battles. He was dialed in. He could be huge for us for the rest of the season."
Video: Phillip Danault on the performance of Ilya Kovalchuk
Defenseman Ben Chiarot was certainly in agreement there.
He couldn't be happier to have Kovalchuk in the fold for the remainder of the year.
"He was great. He brought a lot of energy. You can tell he's calm when he gets the puck on the wall. If he doesn't have a play, he gets it out. Something as simple as that is nice when you have a veteran player, a guy who's been around a long time," explained Chiarot. "And you can see the offensive skill he has. He's been one of the most dangerous players in the League for a while, and as he gets more and more comfortable, he'll get more and more dangerous for us in the offensive zone."
Head coach Claude Julien was also genuinely impressed with the Habs' latest addition.
And he's hoping he can bring a similar effort come Tuesday night against the Red Wings in Detroit.
"He was very involved. He was excited to play at both ends of the rink. He wanted to show that he still has some hockey in him. That's what he did. I liked his game," said Julien. "Tuesday will be a bigger challenge for him to play two in two, but if he can bring that same type of energy and conviction, he will definitely help us."
Big night for Big Ben
Chiarot will always remember his second game against his former team.
After scoring his sixth goal of the season to set a new career-high in that department, the 28-year-old Hamilton, ON native added his seventh.
Both markers came on blistering shots that beat Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck.
Coming away with two points, though, would've made his personal success far more enjoyable.
"It's always fun to score against your old team," said Chiarot. "Winning is a little more fun against your old team, so you can kind of hang that on them a little better."