Tuesday night at the Bell Centre, Habs fans will get to witness their team’s first ever NHL game against the Vegas Golden Knights. Montreal has begun turning their bad start around, claiming five wins in their last seven games and averaging four goals per game in that stretch.
A positive side-effect of the increased scoring is more confidence for the players who felt the most pressure in the early season drought, Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk. The only player Montreal hasn’t seen bounce back yet is Carey Price, who remains injured and whose play should by all accounts return to normal once healthy.
After Charlie Lindgren shut out the Chicago Blackhawks, the Canadiens are looking a more confident bunch, and that’s a good thing because the Golden Knights are rolling into town with the best early season record ever seen on an expansion team. Vegas sits in third place in the Western Conference, scoring more goals and allowing less than the Canadiens.
How to watch
Puck drop: 7:30 PM EST / 4:30 PM PST
In the Canadiens region: TSN2, TSNGO (English), RDS (French)
In the Golden Knights regions: ATTSN-RM
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL GameCentre Live, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
The good news for Montreal is the momentum of these teams are heading in opposite directions, with Vegas having lost four of their last five games, including a shootout loss Monday night in Toronto.
The Golden Knights did not play a great game at the Air Canada Centre, but crawled away with a point, keeping the team moving forward. Despite having played one less game than the Canadiens, the Golden Knights have scored more and allowed less. Without Price (the real one) in net, the Habs cannot afford to take this expansion team lightly.
The last time the Canadiens played a first game against an expansion team was December 18th, 2000 when the home rink was still the Molson Centre, and it welcomed the Columbus Blue Jackets, who shut out the Habs 2-0.
Earlier that same season, on October 24th 2000, Montreal welcomed the Minnesota Wild, a game that ended in a 2-2 tie (this was the pre-shootout era) thanks to a third period game-tying goal by Habs’ defenceman Eric Weinrich.
To find the last Habs’ win against an expansion team in their first game, you have to rewind one more year, to the 1999-00 season - when Montreal defeated the Atlanta Thrashers 4-2 in November of 1999. Shayne Corson opened the scoring and, if you can believe it, Scott Thornton scored the game-winner for the Habs.
Montreal has a chance to end their winless streak in their debuts against expansion teams on Tuesday, an opportunity that doesn’t come often.