Danault, McCarron drive youth movement in Canadiens win over Leafs

Max Pacioretty scored two goals to help the Montreal Canadiens to the victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

MONTREAL—Phillip Danault’s role in the Montreal Canadiens’ 4-1 win for over the Toronto Maple Leafs was hardly pedestrian.

The 23-year-old native of Victoriaville, Que., was traded from the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday in a deal that sent Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann the other way, and landed in Montreal with 32 games of NHL experience under his belt.

On Saturday, Danault spent his morning and most of his afternoon in transit, arriving just in time to play 14:17, record a shot on net, a hit and two takeaways. He also had the game’s best faceoff efficiency, pulling back 15 of the 19 draws he took.

Danault came as advertised; a plucky speedster, labeled "responsible" by his old coach in Chicago and his new coach in Montreal.

"I slept about 45 minutes [Friday], so it was a very long day," said Danault after the game. "But I’m happy to get a good night’s work in and I’m happy we won."

The "we" he’s referring to is his hometown team; the team he grew up cheering for; the team he was shocked to have been traded to so early in his career.

"It’s an honour to play with the Canadiens," the 2011 first-round pick said. "It was a real feeling of pride to play with them for the first time. I had butterflies standing on the blueline for the national anthem, and I’m happy [coach] Michel [Therrien] put me in the starting lineup so I was able to get my legs under me from the start."

There was one hiccup in the first period, when Danault and linemates Jacob De La Rose and Paul Byron got caught on the ice for Toronto’s only goal.

But it was smooth sailing thereafter.

Danault wasn’t Montreal’s only player making his debut at the Bell Centre Saturday.

Michael McCarron, the team’s first-round pick in 2013, made himself noticeable in just under 10 and a half minutes of ice-time.

In fact, at six-foot-six, 230 pounds, McCarron is impossible to ignore.

It was by throwing around his weight that McCarron came about his first NHL point in the second period. He chased the puck into the corner, engaged Leafs defenceman Frank Corrado before beating him to the front of the net to cause a disruption in front of Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier.

The result was a puck that was shot off McCarron’s mid-section that bounced straight to Devante Smith-Pelly, who deposited it into the open net.

McCarron had made his way from Albany to Montreal with a pit stop in Philadelphia Saturday afternoon. He went straight from the airport to the rink and made his mark.

"I thought our line really did a good job and we were rewarded by a goal, and we had several scoring chances," said McCarron. "We should’ve scored a few more."

Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty scored two goals in the third period, one of them on a perfect feed from 37-year-old Andrei Markov. Teammate Alex Galchenyuk had a seeing-eye wrist shot over Bernier’s glove for the game’s nicest goal—borne of 26-year-old Lars Eller’s dogged determination.

But Saturday night’s win for the Canadiens was about youth served.

With Fleischmann and Weise gone, only Markov, Tomas Plekanec and Torrey Mitchell remain in the over-30 category. The Canadiens are now the second-youngest team in the NHL.

It was a good night for their players of limited experience to shine.