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Red Wings, Bernier spoil Canadiens home opener

Goalie stifles hometown team, helps Detroit end skid vs. Montreal

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / Columnist

MONTREAL -- The tire probably was flat on the winged wheel of Jonathan Bernier's Detroit Red Wings logo when he peeled his jersey off Thursday, beaten down as it was by all the pucks shot into it by the Montreal Canadiens.

But at long last Bernier can say that he's won in his "home" rink, having helped lead the Red Wings to a 4-2 victory against the Canadiens at Bell Centre.

And the Red Wings were delighted that they ended their nine-game losing streak to their Original Six rival, having gone 0-8-1 against the Canadiens since their most recent victory, 2-1 in overtime March 21, 2017. Detroit had not won a game in regulation time in Montreal since Dec. 4, 2007.

"I waited too long for that one," Bernier said. "I had family here tonight but I almost told them not to come. Maybe I needed to switch up something."

Bernier was born in Laval, Quebec, about 10 miles west of Montreal, and had one NHL victory against the Canadiens prior to Thursday: Jan. 18, 2014 as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, at Scotiabank Arena. On Thursday, the 31-year-old made 33 saves for his first win in 12 NHL games at Bell Centre. His record against Montreal now is 2-11-3 in 18 games.

Video: Red Wings spoil Canadiens' home opener with 4-2 win

Bernier's positional play was excellent as many Canadiens pucks were swallowed by his midsection without rebound.

"I thought my reads were good," Bernier said. "I was aggressive when I needed to be and I was patient when I knew there were options back door. But most of the night I thought I did a really good job of being aggressive and just letting the puck hit me.

"A couple saves looked easy but I just thought I was in really good position. Sometimes some of those shots would have beat me over the shoulder but tonight they hit me perfectly square because they had nowhere to shoot. They pressed hard on the power play in the second period with (defenseman Shea) Weber having a couple of one-timers. They're a good team, they work hard. They're tough to play, they tip pucks. I thought we did a good job in front of the net tonight."

The Red Wings stuck a pin in the balloon of the Canadiens' 110th home opener, their 102nd since the formation of the NHL.

The evening began just before 7 p.m., with a young adult choir, coincidentally from Laval, singing the stirring "Hallelujah," composed by late Montreal legend Leonard Cohen. The song title nicely reflected the mood of enthusiastic Canadiens fans, who for the first time since April 6 had meaningful hockey on home ice.

A scoreboard video followed, all about the CH logo and the city's relationship with it. And then at 7:07 p.m., Weber, the Canadiens captain, skated out holding aloft a blazing torch, a symbol tied to the Canadiens for decades. Weber handed the torch to alternate captain Brendan Gallagher, who passed it to fellow alternate captain Paul Byron.

The rest of the roster arrived mostly in numerical order, except for No. 31, goalie Carey Price, who was introduced last and received the longest, loudest ovation of the ceremony.

As the ceremony unfolded, the Red Wings waited in their dressing room. Clearly the delay did nothing to rattle Bernier.

"At home it's longer, all the preparation you have to do," he said. "You feel like you have less time to get ready. But on the road you don't really notice too much. We just focused on tonight. We knew the way we played our last game against Anaheim (a 3-1 loss Tuesday). We wanted to come out strong and play for 60 minutes and we did. We didn't really care who we were playing against, we just wanted to make sure we were the better team tonight."

Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said he was happy for his team generally and his goalie specifically, calling Bernier "a good goalie who's worked extremely hard. … I thought we defended well (tonight) and I thought (Bernier) was real good."

No matter the Red Wings' recent troubles in Montreal, Blashill said there was no discussion about it before this game.

"We actually didn't talk about it, to be dead honest with you," he said. "What we did talk about was that this is a (Canadiens) team that's finished ahead of us and this is a team we want to finish ahead of. In order to finish ahead of them you have to beat them."

Blashill recalled the wisdom of former Red Wings general manager Ken Holland.

"Ken used to say, 'One of the best skills is will,'" Blashill said. "We've got lots of will in that dressing room. We talked about this at the beginning of the year, we're sick of losing. If you're sick of losing you make choices on a daily basis to do things that are going to separate yourself. We can do that with work ethic and sacrifice. Other people talk about our skill. We have to sacrifice by blocking shots and guys have done a good job of that so far."

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