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Canadiens top Maple Leafs, spoil Babcock's debut

by Mike Brophy / NHL.com

TORONTO -- Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk and Carey Price helped the Montreal Canadiens spoil Mike Babcock's debut as coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Pacioretty scored twice, Galchenyuk had the go-ahead goal with 7:58 remaining, and Price made 36 saves to give the Canadiens a 3-1 season-opening victory against the Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre on Wednesday.

The Maple Leafs played sound, puck-possession hockey for most of the night in their first game under Babcock, outshooting the Canadiens 37-30. But that was not enough to please their new coach.

"There's no moral victories in the NHL," said Babcock, who signed an eight-year contract with Toronto on May 20 after coaching the Detroit Red Wings for the previous 10 seasons. "You either won or you lost."

Babcock did win the NHL's first coach's challenge. An apparent goal by Montreal defenseman Jeff Petry 6:36 into the second period was negated when it was ruled Canadiens center Tomas Plekanec interfered with Toronto goaltender Jonathan Bernier. Video replay showed Plekanec's stick made incidental contact with Bernier's head before the puck entered the net.

"I didn't challenge nothing," Babcock said. "[Assistant coach Andrew Brewer] yelled in [assistant coach] Jim Hiller's ear and Jim said, 'We're challenging.' Then they were good enough to put it up on the screen, so I knew by time the ref got over there we'd win it."

Galchenyuk snapped a rebound past Toronto goaltender Jonathan Bernier to break a 1-1 tie. Pacioretty, who scored 3:09 into the game, hit the empty net with 30.8 seconds remaining.

The Maple Leafs opened the game with a flurry, getting the first five shots on goal. But it was the Canadiens who took a 1-0 lead when Pacioretty, playing his 400th NHL game, took his team's first shot. Bernier got a piece of the puck, but it trickled over the goal line.

Brad Boyes had a good opportunity to get the Maple Leafs even when he broke in alone on Price at 15:10, but he failed to connect on his attempted deke as he was being pestered from behind by Montreal defenseman Tom Gilbert.

Toronto controlled most of the action and outshot Montreal 11-7 in the first period.

"They certainly worked hard," Montreal forward Brendan Gallagher said. "They made it tough. I think early on in the game we were having trouble with the adjustments they have made in their system."

Gallagher was penalized 13 seconds into the second period for bumping into Bernier following a play stoppage, and the Maple Leafs tied the game six seconds later. Center Nazem Kadri directed a slap pass toward the Montreal goal and the puck bounced off left wing James van Riemsdyk's skate and went past Price.

Each team had 16 shots on goal in the second period.

Montreal had a good chance to regain the lead midway through the third period when David Desharnais took a shot toward an open net with Bernier down and out, but Toronto defenseman Jake Gardiner made a skate save.

Bernier finished with 27 saves.

"We had lots of chances to score," Babcock said. "In the third period I didn't like that when we started pushing we got a little carried away at times, but I thought we did a lot of good things structurally. We won a lot of battles. In saying all of that, I'd like us to score better. You've got to win games; that's the bottom line."

However, against the Canadiens and Price, the reigning Hart Trophy winner as the NHL's most valuable player last season, a good effort simply wasn't enough.

"We had good structure and we did a lot of really good things," Babcock said. "We played hard enough, but we can still get way better. The part I don't like is when momentum swings are happening in the game and we get carried away one way or the other way. In other words when we turn over one we end up turning over three."

The Canadiens said they could see the influence of Babcock on his new team.

"It's a lot like Detroit's obviously with Babcock coaching them," Gallagher said. "Their defense does a good job taking away time and space and they really push the line when it comes to interference. It was never easy playing Detroit and I think it's going to be the same here in Toronto."

Gallagher said Price was the difference in the game.

"There were certainly times in the game when we were on our heels," Gallagher said. "We were getting outcompeted and outbattled and we were relying on [Price]. We don't want to do that as often as we did last year. We want to help him out, but there are times every team relies on its best player and tonight we certainly relied on ours."

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