BUFFALO, N.Y. — Montreal captain Max Pacioretty liked what he saw from the new-look Canadiens in getting off to a successful start to the season.
And Brendan Gallagher looks like he’s ready to bounce back from an injury-shortened season.
Gallagher scored twice while newcomers Shea Weber, Andrew Shaw and backup goalie Al Montoya made significant contributions in a 4-1 season-opening victory over the injury-depleted Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night.
“You want them to feel comfortable and whether you admit it or not, when you get that first goal or point or win, it takes a little bit of stress off you,” Pacioretty said. “And I’m glad it came early for those guys. They played great.”
Weber, acquired in a trade that sent P.K. Subban to Nashville, provided grit to Montreal’s defence and added an assist, when his hard rising shot from inside the blue line was tipped in by Gallagher to put the Canadiens ahead 3-1. Shaw, acquired in a trade with Chicago, scored and Montoya stopped 30 shots in filling in for Carey Price, who is sidelined with the flu.
“A bit of nerves coming in,” Montoya said. “I wasn’t trying to steal the game. I’ve got a good team in front of me. They were fun to watch.”
Montoya will get a second consecutive start at Ottawa on Saturday after the Canadiens announced Price will not travel.
There was no fun for the Sabres, whose injury woes grew when forward Evander Kane was taken to the hospital for further evaluation after he slammed heavily into the end boards late in the second period.
Coach Dan Bylsma had no immediate update on Kane’s status, except to say the player was being evaluated for “a lot of things internally.”
Kane’s injury is the latest setback for a team that was already reeling a day after second-year star centre Jack Eichel sprained his left ankle during practice.
“Well, there’s a little bit of shake your head and snake-bitten a little bit,” Bylsma said. “You expect to have (injuries) throughout your lineup, and unfortunately you have a rash of them. But that’s no excuse for how we need to play. We’ve got to keep fighting through it.”
Kane was doubled-over in pain as he was escorted off the ice. He was hurt while racing Canadiens defenceman Alexei Emelin for a loose puck up the left wing in the Montreal zone. Kane reached out for the puck when the two bumped. Kane lost his balance, fell and slid with his left elbow slamming into the boards.
The Sabres were also playing minus top-line forward Kyle Okposo (knee) and defenceman Dmitry Kulikov (bruised backside).
Matt Moulson scored a power-play goal for Buffalo to briefly cut Montreal’s lead to 2-1 in the opening minute of the third period.
The Canadiens responded with two goals in just under five minutes.
Gallagher tipped in Weber’s shot 6:43 into the third. Shaw then scored by capping a frantic scramble in front after goalie Robin Lehner had already made two stops. Torrey Mitchell also scored for Montreal.
“We did a lot of good things,” Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. “There’s still things that we need to work on and it’s normal. But it’s really early in the season. But overall you’ve got to be satisfied with the win.”
NOTES: Before the game, the Sabres announced they signed general manager Tim Murray to a multiyear contract extension. Murray was hired in January 2014, and was entering the final year of his contract. … At 18 years and 110 days, Canadiens rookie first-round draft pick Mikhail Sergachev became the fourth-youngest player and youngest defenceman to play a regular-season game in team history. … Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan listed Eichel on his injury report, and then joked he had no comment about Maple Leafs rookie Auston Matthews scoring four goals in his debut. “Nah,” Ryan added, “it was pretty amazing wasn’t it?” … Eichel had his left leg perched on a scooter in making a brief appearance in the Sabres tunnel during pre-game introductions.
Canadiens: At Ottawa on Saturday.
Sabres: Play at Edmonton on Sunday in opening four-game road swing.