Crawford leads Blackhawks past Canadiens
MONTREAL — Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford continued his mastery of the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday.
As a result, the Canadiens continued their search for offense.
Crawford, playing in his hometown, spoiled the Canadiens’ home opener, making 41 saves in the Blackhawks’ 3-1 victory on Tuesday at the Bell Centre.
Crawford improved his record against Montreal to 8-0-2.
Alex DeBrincat, who got his first NHL goal; Brandon Saad, who tallied his fifth goal of the season; and Artem Anisimov scored for the Blackhawks, who remained undefeated in regulation time (3-0-1).
Tomas Plekanec scored for the Canadiens (1-3-0), who have scored four goals in regulation and overtime this season. Carey Price made 22 saves.
“It’s fun to play here, friends and family are here,” Crawford said. “I was pretty excited to come here and play. That was another big win for us on the road in this building. They came out flying, and we didn’t get rattled. We scored some big goals on some nice plays, a couple of tic-tac-toes there. We showed poise and kept making plays.”
The Canadiens, pumped up by the opening-night crowd, started with a rush, and Plekanec gave them their first lead of the season 75 seconds into the game. It was Montreal’s second even-strength goal in four games.
The Canadiens dominated the play in the first 10 minutes, outshooting the Blackhawks 14-3.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said he liked the way Crawford handled himself.
“He was big. They were loading up with traffic, and he challenged them,” Quenneville said. “I think he likes it here.”
The Blackhawks didn’t flinch and scored two goals in 19 seconds to lead 2-1 after the first period.
DeBrincat, the Blackhawks’ second-round pick (39th overall) in 2016, tied the game at 17:53, driving home a pass from Patrick Sharp after a clearing attempt by Montreal defenseman Jordie Benn hit a linesman at the Canadiens’ blue line.
“It’s probably a dream come true,” DeBrincat said of his goal. “You think about that moment your whole life, and finally it comes true.
“It’s pretty cool. He’s a great goalie, obviously, and I was lucky enough to get one past him.”
Saad gave Chicago the lead when he shook off a check by Canadiens rookie defenseman Victor Mete and scored on a pass from Jonathan Toews at 18:12.
“We’re lucky it was 1-0 for as long as it was,” Quenneville said. “That gave us some hope that we could get out of the period, and then we scored two quick ones.”
The Blackhawks took a 3-1 lead on the power play at 10:44 of the second period. Anisimov finished off a nice pass from DeBrincat, who averaged 111 points in three seasons with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League while showing a scorer’s hands. He one-touched the pass across the crease to Anisimov at the far post.
After Plekanec gave the Canadiens the early lead, Montreal had a great chance to build on it with a five-on-three power play for 35 seconds beginning at 6:53 of the first period, but the power play fizzled again and remains scoreless this season.
The Canadiens finished the game 0-for-5 on the power play and fell to 0-for-14 with a man advantage to start the season.
“I know everyone says once you get one they will start to come, but you’ve got to have the mental strength to get that one and not just on a fluke goal, have the patience when you have the opportunity to make them pay, you’ve got to make them pay,” Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty said.
“I think guys are playing positions that are new to them, so the reads aren’t perfect yet. I think we’ve gotten by with good entries, good setups. We need to find a way to get the end result.”
Canadiens coach Claude Julien preached patience after the game.
“Our power play has been good as far as moving the puck, but I think tonight we were forcing things just a little bit,” he said. “I didn’t think our power play has been quite as good as it has been. I think the shots we had, converging on the net and finishing is an area we need to get better, as well.
“Guys, their confidence is low in that department. We’ve got to fight our way out of this. I still see potential in this team. Once we turn it around, we’re going to be fine.”
NOTES: Blackhawks C Nick Schmaltz missed his second game with an upper-body injury. ... Chicago D Connor Murphy and D Jordan Oesterle were scratched. ... Canadiens LW Jacob De La Rose was scratched and replaced in the lineup by RW Ales Hemsky. ... Canadiens D Mark Streit was scratched for the second game in a row. ... The game was the Canadiens’ 100th home opener in the NHL, their 108th overall.