Mark Streit on rejoining Canadiens: It’s like a dream for me

Evgeni Malkin scored twice but newly-acquired defenceman Mark Streit notched the game-winner for the Penguins, getting them a 5-2 win against the Lightning.

Mark Streit is home, sweet home. Sort of.

Though he hails from Switzlerland, Streit began his professional hockey career in Montreal back in 2005-06, making Tuesday’s deal with the Canadiens somewhat of a hockey homecoming for the 39-year-old.

“Montreal always had a special place in my heart because I started there,” Streit said via NHL.com after his one-year contract was announced by the team.

“One thing I really always missed was playing at the Bell Centre,” explained the defenceman, who represented le bleu, blanc et rouge 205 times over the course of his three seasons with Canadiens. “It’s a unique rink with unique fans and a unique atmosphere. If you get the chance to play in front of them every night – with the atmosphere and the life in the city – I think it’s very motivating.

“There’s a lot of pressure, but I think players need that in order to perform and play great. I love the city and the fans. I’m excited to come back.”

Following his time in Montreal, Streit spent four seasons with the New York Islanders before joining the Philadelphia Flyers. Most recently, he was acquired by the Penguins via Tampa Bay at this year’s trade deadline and went on to help Pittsburgh win its second straight Stanley Cup.

“If someone told me 10 years ago that I’d be playing with the Canadiens again… It’s like a dream for me. It’s an exceptional organization. If you have an opportunity to play for the Canadiens, it’s incredible,” said Streit, whose name is now etched on hockey’s most coveted trophy as a member of the Penguins.

“Money wasn’t the most important thing for me,” Streit said of his latest deal, which is worth a reported $700,000. “It was more important to come back to Montreal and be with the Habs again.”

Streit has registered 96 goals and 434 points in 784 career NHL regular-season games, and while he didn’t see much ice time during the 2016-17 post-season, he did contribute two assists in three games with the club during the Eastern Conference Final against the Ottawa Senators. He also tallied one goal and five assists in 19 games down the stretch with Pittsburgh.

He served as a depth defender in Pittsburgh, and it’s likely he’ll do the same in Montreal — something he said he’s ready for.

“Every player wants to play as many games as possible and play a lot of minutes, but I learned over the last four months in Pittsburgh that it’s very important that everyone on a team accept certain roles. I’m doing that,” he said. “I’m working very hard right now, and if I have the chance to play, I’ll give it my all.”

“Now, team success is the most important thing to me. I’m motivated.”