BUFFALO -- The bleu, blanc et rouge were confusing to the eye. Shea Weber looked the same, that big body, that shot whistling toward Buffalo Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner, that commanding presence, that rumbling hit in the corner on Johan Larsson in the first period.
That part was familiar, the result of 763 regular-season NHL games. But the uniform, the colors of the Montreal Canadiens, were jarring on the defenseman.
It was, after all, the first time Weber wore a uniform other than the one of the Nashville Predators, for whom he played the first 11 seasons of his NHL career before a June 29 trade sent him to Montreal for P.K. Subban. It was a first, but, as he reminded reporters after the Canadiens defeated the Sabres 4-1 at KeyBank Center, it is far from the last.
So it's time to get used to it. It's time to see Weber as a piece of the team, rather than a piece in a trade.
"I'm here for a long time, so hopefully we can have a lot of success together as a group," Weber said. "I'm looking forward to it."
It started off well, for the Canadiens and for Weber. With the Canadiens up 2-0 to start the third period, the Sabres came back with a goal by Matt Moulson 35 seconds into the period on the power play.
But the Canadiens wrested back control, scoring on a deflection by Brendan Gallagher on a shot from Weber at the blue line. The assist was the first for Weber as a member of the Canadiens. It also took a bit of the pressure off, putting Montreal back up by two.
Video: MTL@BUF: Gallagher redirects home his second goal
Not only that: Weber finished the game a plus-3, on the ice for the first goal (8:43 of the first, Gallagher) and the last (11:36 of the third, Andrew Shaw). Weber played 24:04 and was what the Canadiens wanted, for Thursday, and for the long haul.
"I thought Shea, right from Day One, has come in, the presence that he brought to our locker room has helped us in so many areas, off the ice, on the ice, everywhere. In our offensive zone, defensive zone. He's so effective," Gallagher said. "He's so controlled the way he handles the game."
It's that, and it's not that. Weber, a captain with the Predators, brings more. He commands a room. He is a factor. He is someone to look up to, to model, to watch.
"He jokes around with the guys, having fun, he's fitting right in," Gallagher said. "Just the type of leader he is, is what you're looking for in a guy, a guy that has done it before, has done it in the past and is still willing to do it.
"So when he stands up and talks and says something, he has the respect of your teammates instantly. Like I said, the leadership that he's brought to our group has already had an impact."
This was what they needed.
"It's something we were trying to add was being tougher to play against, and he brings that," Gallagher said. "Our identity is always going to be our speed and trying to play behind the defense in the offensive zone. We can't get away from that, but if we can get more challenging to play against, more physical, more demanding for other teams to come in and play us, we added two guys, in [Shaw] up front and Shea on the back end, that are definitely going to add to that. You saw it tonight."
Weber was not the only new face for the Canadiens. There were the rookies, Artturi Lehkonen and Mikhail Sergachev. There were the acquisitions, Al Montoya, Alexander Radulov, Shaw. But no one was bigger than Weber. No one more remarked upon. No one more important.
So, were there any nerves in the run-up to the game? Any anxiety?
"No, not really. I think I had more in the preseason game, actually, the other night," Weber said. "It was more fun, I think. Let the pressure be on the young kids in their first NHL games."
There was no pressure for him.
There was thump, at times. There was steadiness. There was a player who is almost always -- with rare exception -- in the right place, doing the right thing, making the right call.
And there was relief in that, especially with some young players coming up, with some changes for Montreal. And that's not to denigrate Subban. That's not to say he won't be great in Nashville.
But, as Gallagher said, "With us, it was a good move in the sense, we needed what Shea's going to bring to our locker room, the presence that he has. It's a good addition to our team. P.K.'s going to go there and be P.K. I'm sure he's going to have success there as well. It's just a matter of two clubs making a move to benefit their team. There's trades [that are] a win for both sides. For us, we definitely feel like we're happy with the trade. We hope Nashville is too."