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Canucks end Canadiens' perfect start

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER -- The Montreal Canadiens' perfect start is history.

The Vancouver Canucks ended the Canadiens' season-opening winning streak at nine games and avoided an ignominious record of their own with a 5-1 win Tuesday.

Rookie Jared McCann scored twice, former Canadiens forward Brandon Prust had two assists and Ryan Miller made 25 saves to help Vancouver end Montreal's streak at nine victories, one short of matching the NHL record for most wins at the start of a season.

"Other people talked about it, we didn't," captain Max Pacioretty said of the streak. "We've gotten off to a great start this year. We're not happy. You're only as good as your last game, and we weren't very good tonight."

Luca Sbisa, Radim Vrbata and Derek Dorsett also scored for the Canucks, who won for the first time in six games at Rogers Arena to avoid a franchise record for the worst start to a season on home ice.

"It's a huge measuring stick against probably the beat team in the League right now," Canucks forward Alexandre Burrows said. "We really wanted that first win at home probably more than they wanted that 10-game winning streak."

Torrey Mitchell scored on a deflection 2:54 into the third period for the Canadiens to make it 3-1, bringing back memories of the Canucks (4-2-3) blowing third-period leads in their past two games. But Montreal took a bench minor for too many men on the ice to negate a power play of their own three minutes later, and Vrbata restored Vancouver's three-goal lead at the end of the power play before Dorsett rounded out the scoring on a nice rush midway through the period.

"It was good to see that we could beat a top team," Vancouver coach Willie Desjardins said. "I think all our guys had confidence, but it was still nice to find a way and hold a lead going into the third."

Carey Price made 23 saves for the Canadiens (9-1-0), who had to settle for becoming the first team in NHL history to win its first nine games in regulation. They came up one short of joining the 1993-94 Toronto Maple Leafs and 2006-07 Buffalo Sabres as the only teams to start a season with 10 straight wins.

"We didn't match their intensity and there's no excuse for that," Pacioretty said. "It was a statement game and they wanted to prove they could beat us, especially in their barn."

The Canadiens came into the day leading the NHL in goals scored and goals allowed, but were down 3-0 before the end of the first period after a couple of tough bounces.

McCann, a 19-year-old rookie, opened the scoring 2:30 into the game after Prust handcuffed his old goalie with a high shot from the faceoff circle. Price appeared to make a windmill save, but the puck came out of his glove, bounced off his shoulder and rolled down his back, leaving a charging McCann with an open net for his third goal.

The Canadiens, who had trailed for 2:57 all season, fell behind 2-0 on another tough bounce for Price 6:42 later. With Miller pulled for an extra attacker during a delayed penalty, Sbisa's one-timer from the point was tipped in the slot by Montreal defensemen Nathan Beaulieu and bounced up and over a helpless Price and into the net.

"It was a weird game," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "First goal for us is a bad break; second goal same thing, bad play from Beaulieu to deflect the puck in the net."

Montreal had several great chances to get back into the game, but Miller slid across and threw out his blocker to rob David Desharnais on a 2-on-0 break with Tomas Fleishmann.

"We got some quality chances, Miller made some key saves and it set the tone," Therrien said.

McCann made it 3-0 with 4:08 left in the period, winning an offensive zone faceoff after a P.K. Subban icing, sliding into the slot for a return pass from Prust and snapping a quick shot past Price's outstretched glove. It was McCann's team-leading fourth goal in seven games, strengthening his case to stay in Vancouver this season rather than returning to his junior team.

McCann, who doesn't say much, insisted he wasn't thinking about that, but seemed excited about having his breakout game against the streaking Canadiens.

"It's pretty crazy," McCann said. "One of the Original Six teams ... it was huge."

The only downside for the Canucks was losing Prust to an ankle injury late in the second period.

Prust, who said Monday it still "hurt a little" to be traded by Montreal in the summer, would have added a third assist if not for Price robbing Sbisa, but left after turning his left ankle awkwardly.

"Hit a rut and rolled right over," he said. "I didn't hear anything pop, but it's definitely sore."

Prust said an X-ray didn't show any fractures but that he is scheduled to have an MRI on Wednesday and will not travel with the team for a two-game road trip that starts Thursday against the Dallas Stars. Still, he admitted it felt good to contribute against the Canadiens.

"Getting a couple assists against your old team is always good," Prust said.

It was a tough night for Price, who came in with a .961 save percentage. After bad breaks on two first-period goals, Vrbata scored when he batted a puck out of the air and past the Montreal goalie after it bounced up off a defender's stick. Dorsett walked into the low slot untouched before his shot bounced in off Canadiens forward Alexander Semin on the backdoor.

"No one is looking at him," Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher said of Price. "We gave up way too many good chances. … They took it to us. I don't think we can look at one area of the game and say we were better than them. They outplayed us in every aspect of the game."

Vancouver was playing without top-four defenseman Dan Hamhuis, who was a late scratch, taking what the team called a "maintenance day" to rest an unidentified ailment.

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