It was the first game of the season and the Canadiens were already down a goal.
The Habs were on the road, in Buffalo’s First Niagara Center, and Jason Pominville scored the first of his two goals on the night to put the Sabres in the lead. But there was no dread, no collective groaning from the fanbase. There was still a game, a season, to play for.
Sure enough, the Canadiens responded to the Sabres’ opening marker thanks to none other than captain Max Pacioretty. Who better to lead your team by example than your captain?
Sabres centre Ryan O’Reilly held the puck with a little over two minutes to play in the first period. As he retreated backward into his own zone, he lifted his head to find a teammate. Pacioretty then used his stick to block the pass, thus creating the turnover and giving Brendan Gallagher the mishandled feed.
Gallagher then found a streaking Jonathan Drouin to his left. The newcomer slid a pass through two helpless Sabres players, O’Reilly included, before Pacioretty fired a one-timer past Robin Lehner for his first of the season.
17:56 - Max Pacioretty (Jonathan Drouin, Brendan Gallagher) vs. Buffalo
It was the first time the much-hoped-for chemistry between Drouin and Pacioretty was on display. It promised the beginning of something special between the two. But together, the tandem combined on just seven of the Canadiens’ goals in 2017-18.
While Habs fans can look at this play and wonder what could’ve been, we can also just admire the beauty of this play for what it is. The Canadiens capitalized on a turnover and it resulted in their first of the season for their captain and the team. The Habs went on to win the game 3-2 in a shootout to start the season off with a two-point effort.