NEW YORK - Newcomers provided the spark the Canadiens needed to rattle off their fifth straight win and get their lengthy road trip off to a solid start on Saturday night.
Jordie Benn scored, Steve Ott chipped in with an assist and dished out a game-high seven hits, and Andreas Martinsen threw a couple of solid checks of his own in a 4-1 victory over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Shea Weber, Artturi Lehkonen and Andrew Shaw also lit the lamp for the Canadiens to open the four-game trek - that will also include stops in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton over the next nine days - but all of the attention following the win was focused squarely on the big-time contributions of several recent acquisitions who joined the fold earlier in the week.
"They brought a lot of energy, but they also played well," praised head coach Claude Julien, who has seen his squad win six of their last seven games. "Martinsen is a big man who skates well. He's very physical and he made good plays. Ott is good on faceoffs and he's a veteran with a lot of experience. He knows how to play in situations like these. He gave us what we wanted. I thought those guys played well. Benn continues to solidify our defense. Those were all good things out there."
Video: Condensed Game: Canadiens at Rangers
Benn, who was playing his third game since coming over from the Dallas Stars, essentially put the game out of reach for good just under seven minutes into the third period after Chris Kreider got the Rangers on the board early in the frame and cut the lead to 3-1. His third goal of the season restored the Canadiens' three-goal advantage when Alain Vigneault's squad appeared to be gaining momentum.
"It means a lot," said Benn, on the subject of scoring his first goal since December 17. "It's not a part of my game that I do every night. The big boys take care of all that, but just to contribute and have the puck go in is just a bonus for me. It was nice to see one go in."
For his part, Martinsen garnered plenty of praise in the aftermath of his Habs debut. His teammates were particularly impressed by the way he used his 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame at both ends of the rink.
"You can just tell by looking at him, the kid's a monster," mentioned Benn. "He's a big force out there and I think that's what they wanted here. They brought him in to play that role and to hit guys and to work it down low and he's done a really great job."
Video: Jordie Benn on his new team
Pleased with is performance, the 26-year-old Norwegian forward certainly wasn't lacking in motivation when given the opportunity to strut his stuff for his new club after his time in Colorado had come to an end.
"Coming to one of the biggest teams in the world and they're a great team. For me today, it was important to have a good game and show everyone that I can play and try and get some respect from my teammates and everyone else, so I just tried to go out there and do my job," shared Martinsen, who logged 11:42 of playing time on Saturday night. "I've got the same role that I've had everywhere else I've played, go out there and use my body, be physical and create some energy and get in on the forecheck."
The way Martinsen, Ott and Torrey Mitchell all went about their business on the fourth line was a real source of pride for the Canadiens' bench boss, too.
"That line gave us a lot of energy. I think it gave the whole team confidence, knowing that they could count on them. That line deserves a lot of credit for giving us extra depth," said Julien. "They didn't play like a fourth line tonight. They were very solid and had scoring chances. They were reliable to the point where we could put them out there against the other team's big lines and we felt comfortable doing that."
Video: Claude Julien's postgame presser
It's safe to say that the Canadiens couldn't have asked for a better effort before making the long flight to the Lower Mainland on Sunday morning. Tough tests await in Western Canada, so going out there on a high note and feeling good about themselves is a perfect way to get things started.
"We're just getting back to what we did earlier in the year, feeling confident in each other, line after line, getting on teams and sticking to our structure," shared Brendan Gallagher. "Regardless of what's happening in games, we're sticking with it and finding different ways to win."