OTTAWA - The Canadiens knew they'd be in for a tough battle on the Senators' home turf, and put up a fight they did, winning 8-3 in a high-scoring affair on Monday night in the nation's capital.
The Senators struck early, with Tom Pyatt opening the scoring just 21 seconds after puck drop, but Charles Hudon evened the score in historic fashion when he rifled in his first career NHL goal just minutes later. After a tug-of-war first half of the opening frame in which both teams traded the lead, the Habs pulled ahead on goals from Artturi Lehkonen's first of the season and another one from Hudon, and never looked back.
Video: MTL@OTT: Hudon rips home PPG for first NHL goal
"[Hudon and Lehkonen] had a great preseason. The longer it goes, maybe they're squeezing their sticks a little tighter. But you knew it was going to come," noted Shea Weber, who assisted on Hudon's second goal and on the two goals Lehkonen would score by game's end. "They're both good players and I'm happy to see them both score tonight."
The Sens pulled within one midway through the second period on a goal by Christopher DiDomenico. But the Canadiens showed that they had used their recent adversity to build up a store of character by hanging on to a one-goal lead until Alex Galchenyuk gave them some insurance off a thrilling breakaway goal just over seven minutes later.
"We got some bounces, and the pucks found their way in. At the same time, we reacted better when we got scored on," continued Weber. "The past few games, we've tended to take a step back when we got scored on and tonight, we did a better job of getting back on our game."
Video: Shea Weber on the win over the Senators
Although the Canadiens' eight goals on Monday amounted to the club's highest goal total since a 10-1 win over Colorado last December, head coach Claude Julien believes his team's success on the scoresheet was also the result of an effective defensive night at the office.
"I liked the way we defended tonight. They're a very dangerous offensive team and I think the guys reacted well in the neutral zone," outlined the coach of his troops, who outshot the hosts 29-28. "We didn't give them a lot of chances and we were better in our own end."
Complementing the protective effort was backup goaltender Al Montoya, who provided the Canadiens with stellar goaltending. The 32-year-old stopped 25 Senators shots shots on the night and was a big reason his team was able to hang on to the lead when the score got tight.
"He was great. He was so solid back there. He got scored on early, but it didn't faze him," Weber said of Montoya, who was making only his second start of the season. "He made a couple of big saves for us, especially on a couple of our penalty kills later on."
The coach also had high praise for his netminder, especially after coming up on the losing end in his previous outing despite having delivered a strong 37-save performance.
"I'm really happy for him," added Julien. "He played such a good game in Los Angeles, he deserved a better outcome. He won a big game for us tonight."
The night was momentous on so many levels. In addition to Hudon's first two career goals, Lehkonen's first two goals of the season, Montoya's first win and Weber's three-assist night, Tomas Plekanec enjoyed a two-point effort [1G, 1A] which bumped him into a tie with Mario Tremblay for 15th overall in all-time Canadiens scoring with 584 points.
Still, much of the attention was directed at Hudon, one of the feel-good stories of this young season. The 23-year-old had paid his dues in the AHL and endeared himself to fans with a memorable, hard-working training camp.
A training camp to remember, perhaps, but the young father may have to pinch himself and reiterate to himself that he has indeed scored a goal - two, actually - in the National Hockey League.
"I forgot how the first goal happened… it was such a big moment for me," recounted Hudon, who scored 75 goals in 207 games with the Hamilton Bulldogs and Saint John's IceCaps from 2012-2017. "I was relieved. The guys all congratulated me. I knew it was going to come; I didn't know when, but now it's done and it's time to move on to the next."
Video: Charles Hudon on his first career NHL goal