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New Canadiens step up to replace Subban, Pacioretty

by Arpon Basu / NHL.com

MONTREAL -- Brian Flynn was named the first star and Torrey Mitchell the second star of the Montreal Canadiens' 4-3 victory Wednesday in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Ottawa Senators.

Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin was robbed.

Every player Bergevin acquired for the Canadiens over the course of the season had a big impact in helping them open the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a victory.

Mitchell and Flynn, acquired in separate trades with the Buffalo Sabres at the NHL Trade Deadline on March 2, scored the opening and winning goals for the Canadiens, helping replace the offense that was lost with leading scorer Max Pacioretty out of the lineup with an upper-body injury.

Forward Devante Smith-Pelly, acquired from the Anaheim Ducks on Feb. 24 for Jiri Sekac in a trade that was widely criticized in Montreal, was a physical presence. He was credited with six hits and was around the net all night. It was easily his best game with the Canadiens.

Finally, defenseman Jeff Petry, acquired from the Edmonton Oilers on deadline day, continued his strong play and helped compensate for the loss of top defenseman P.K. Subban, who was ejected at 8:23 of the second period for slashing Senators forward Mark Stone.

Petry led Montreal with 24:39 of ice time, had a game-high six shots on goal and provided many of the same qualities Subban brings to the table to help the Canadiens nurse a one-goal lead through the third period without their best defenseman.

All in all, the general manager had a pretty good night.

"He did, didn't he?" Mitchell said. "We had other guys step up, everyone had to up their minutes a little bit without our leading scorer and our best defenseman. It wasn't just us.

"But I'm sure if you asked [Petry] and [Flynn] and [Smith-Pelly] if they wanted to play the way they did tonight for the first playoff game, they'd say 'yes,' and myself included. It feels good."

Almost exactly a year earlier, on April 16, 2014, another crafty Bergevin acquisition, forward Dale Weise, scored the game-winning goal in overtime for the Canadiens in Game 1 of their first-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Brian Flynn
Center - MTL
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 3
SOG: 2 | +/-: 3
This time it was Flynn, playing his first career playoff game and getting to do so only because Pacioretty was out of the lineup.

It was exactly the type of situation Bergevin was looking to guard against in acquiring a player like Flynn, to provide playoff depth in case of an injury. Bergevin probably never imagined Flynn would replace the offense of someone like Pacioretty, scoring a goal and adding two assists in his playoff debut.

Mitchell and Flynn had one point between them in their 23 combined regular-season games with the Canadiens.

They had four points on Wednesday.

"I'm not going to come in and replace [Pacioretty]; that wasn't my thought process at all when I was playing," Flynn said. "I had a role to play on the fourth line and play fast and do a lot of little things to contribute that way. For some other guys who maybe take his spot, it was a lot different."

Devante Smith-Pelly
Right Wing - MTL
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 0
SOG: 1 | +/-: 0
One of those guys was Smith-Pelly, who struggled when he joined the Canadiens and was even called out by coach Michel Therrien for being out of shape, to the point he was made a healthy scratch for two games, March 28 and 30. But Smith-Pelly has been given a top-six role in Pacioretty's absence, and he's responded in kind.

Bergevin said when he made the trade that Smith-Pelly was the type of player the Canadiens needed in the playoffs to create some room for some of his faster, skilled forwards, but it was sometimes difficult to see during the regular season how that could ever happen.

It wasn't difficult to see Wednesday.

"I definitely heard that and definitely knew that had something to do with them wanting me here," Smith-Pelly said. "At the same time, I'm not coming here to be the savior; I'm just coming here to play my game.

"The playoffs are a whole different beast. You want to play like that every game, but there's nothing like the first playoff game. So I guess that's pretty much my game right there."

That's the game Bergevin was hoping for.

Jeff Petry
Defense - MTL
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 0
SOG: 6 | +/-: 1
But his most significant acquisition was Petry, and his value to the Canadiens has been obvious for a long time, though it was perhaps never as glaring as it was Wednesday.

"That was his first game in the playoffs," Therrien noted. "The last month he's been really good. I think right now he's playing the best hockey of his career in the last month. He's comfortable about the way we play and it shows in his game. He's good defensively, he can put [up] numbers offensively as well. I really like what I see from him."

Therrien's boss surely does as well.

Bergevin loves to say that there are players who get you to the playoffs, and players that get you through the playoffs. None of his acquisitions this season has gotten the Canadiens through the playoffs yet, but they showed in Game 1 of the best-of-7 series that they have the potential for it.

But most importantly for the Canadiens, the win against the Senators allowed them to show that they are a team bigger than their stars. Goaltender Carey Price is the obvious lead star, but Pacioretty and Subban are right there, and it's unlikely many people would have given the Canadiens much of a chance to win a game with them out.

But they did.

Entering the most important time of year, that was perhaps the most important point to prove of all.

"I'm not surprised," Canadiens center Lars Eller said. "Maybe some people were proved wrong, but we're not in it to prove people on the outside wrong. We're confident in this group. History has shown many times that when teams lose important players, other guys step up to get the job done."

It helps when you have a general manager who can go out and get those other guys to get that job done.

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