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Condon stars for Canadiens in homecoming game

by David Satriano

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Mike Condon's return to Gillette Stadium on Friday ended with a win, the same result often achieved when Condon sat in the upper deck to watch one of his idols, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, play football.

The Montreal Canadiens goalie from Holliston, Mass., was front and center in a 5-1 victory against the Boston Bruins at the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.

Condon said he has never met Brady but got his mask signed by him and Patriots coach Bill Belichick after practice Thursday.

"I'm pretty sure anything that Tom Brady touches turns to gold, so I was pretty happy," Condon said after making 27 saves. "Hopefully he got some mojo on my helmet there. I'm a huge fan of his and a huge fan of this organization, and I'm just happy to pay respect to them on the ice."

Many of Condon's family and friends were present, including his dad, a State Policeman in the area.

"Probably the most special (game of my career)," Condon said. "I had a lot of friends and family here tonight, Bruins-Habs, Gillette Stadium. Winter Classic on New Year's Day. I don't think you could script it any better."

Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty, who had a goal and an assist, said Condon's father was on his mind throughout the game.

"Every time he made a save, I thought about his dad. We saw his dad; he's a big, mean cop, but he definitely took a lot of pride in being here," Pacioretty said. "You could tell he was holding back emotions. So for me, every time I saw a big save I thought about how his dad was reacting to that. That gave me a little bit of a boost and I'm sure everyone else as well. It's something he'll remember the rest of his life and definitely his friends and family."

Condon allowed an early third-period goal to Bruins forward Matt Beleskey, losing a chance at his first NHL shutout. He had several highlight-reel moments, including in the second period when he made a glove save on Ryan Spooner with 0.1 seconds remaining. It even brought a rare smile from coach Michel Therrien.

"That is a huge save, that's a big momentum swing," Pacioretty said. "It's certainly one you don't expect him to make ... but when a guy can make a save like that and give us the confidence going into the third period, playing in front of him, you really feel like he has got your back. ... I know it meant a lot to him.

"That was a big confidence booster for us going into the third period. Normally guys hop right off the bench and go down the tunnel, but everyone stayed on the ice to give him a pat on the pads because that was a huge save. I think the most important part was the timing and the situation of the game. That kept us in it."

Condon, a 25-year-old rookie who earned the job as Carey Price's backup in training camp, is 11-9-3 in 26 games this season. (Price has been out since Nov. 25 with a lower-body injury).

"When you have a guy like Carey Price, this game is obviously marked off for him [to start], but hockey is a crazy game and anything can happen," Condon said. "You just have to make sure you are prepared for opportunities that you can get."

The win moved the Canadiens one point ahead of the Florida Panthers for first place in the Atlantic Division. Montreal leads Boston by three points.

"We knew it was an important game for us," Therrien said. "First of all, like I said before [Thursday], he certainly deserves to get the start the way that he played his last two games. And we knew that, first of all, he was going to be ready. Any time a player is coming back home, it's a special place for him. And we all are happy about the way he performed.

"The kid did show a lot of confidence. ... He works extremely hard and [we] feel extremely happy for him for the way he performed, especially for him back home."

Montreal was 3-11-0 in December and fell from first place in the division.

"New year, big win. Hopefully January is a lot nicer to us," Condon said. "Big win, two points, can't argue with that."

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