BUFFALO, N.Y. — Canadiens goalie Carey Price looked his familiar formidable self.
And newcomer Jonathan Drouin delivered on offense in leading Montreal to a season-opening 3-2 shootout victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night.
Price stopped 43 shots through overtime and denied all three of Buffalo’s shootout attempts following an offseason in which he signed an eight-year, $84 million contract extension.
Drouin, the Quebec-born first-round draft pick acquired in an offseason trade from Tampa Bay, then put on a nifty display by scoring the lone shootout goal and adding an assist.
Driving toward the net, Drouin faked left in prompting goalie Robin Lehner to make the first move, and then zagged to his right in backhanding the puck into the open side.
“It shows you the kind of skill level he’s got,” Canadiens coach Claude Julien said about the third player selected in the 2013 draft.
If Drouin proved to be the odd-man out among a talented Lightning group of forwards, he’s quickly finding his niche on a Canadiens team in need of offense.
Montreal traded prospect defenseman Mikhail Sergachev and a conditional 2018 second-round pick to acquire Drouin in June.
“It is important for the team, two points, but for me, too,” said Drouin, who’s pass through the crease set up Max Pacioretty’s one-timer that tied it at 1 late in the first period.
Phillip Danault forced overtime by scoring a short-handed goal on a wraparound with 11:59 left.
The Sabres blew two one-goal leads in spoiling Phil Housley’s debut as head coach and Jason Pominville’s two-goal outing in his first game back with Buffalo since being reacquired in a trade with Minnesota in June.
Housley lamented the loss, while noting he saw positive signs of the up-tempo style he’s introducing to Buffalo after spending the previous four seasons as an assistant coach in Nashville.
“We outshot the team, we out-chanced the team, we just didn’t beat them on the scoreboard,” said Housley, the Hall of Fame defenseman who broke into the NHL with Buffalo as an 18-year old in 1982. “We don’t like the result obviously, but I think we can take a lot of things from this game as we move forward.”
Buffalo took 45 shots, including 41 through three periods a year after the team topped 40 just four times.
Where Buffalo faltered was on the power play in converting just one of five opportunities. The Sabres managed one shot on goal during a two-man advantage spanning 78 seconds in the second period. And then they gave up the tying goal 42 seconds after Montreal’s Andrew Shaw was penalized for interference.
Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber gained the Sabres zone and briefly lost control of the puck before dumping it behind Buffalo’s net. Danault pounced on it and wrapped it in from the right side.
“We sort of took the foot off the gas there,” Housley said.
Buffalo is coming off a tumultuous offseason in which general manager Tim Murray and coach Dan Bylsma were fired after the team missed the playoffs for a sixth consecutive season. Jason Botterill took over as GM in May and a month later hired Housley.
Pominville opened the scoring with a power-play goal 8:30 into the first period and then converted Jack Eichel’s pass through the middle to put Buffalo up 2-1 in the opening minute of the second period.
The former Sabres captain spent the four-plus seasons in Minnesota before being was acquired along with defenseman Marco Scandella.
NOTES: Pominville’s last two-goal game in a Sabres’ uniform came in a 4-3 shootout win over New Jersey on March 2, 2013, about a month before he was traded to Minnesota. … Canadiens free-agent addition, D Karl Alzner, extended his consecutive games streak to 541 — the fifth-longest active streak, and one short of matching Brendan Morrison for 17th on NHL list. …The Sabres elected not to choose a captain to start the season and instead named four assistant captains: Forwards Eichel, Ryan O’Reilly and Kyle Okposo, and defenseman Zach Bogosian.
Montreal: At New York Rangers on Friday night.
Buffalo: At New York Islanders on Saturday night.
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