TORONTO (AP) — Montreal coach Claude Julien figured his young, largely inexperienced Canadiens had a real opportunity to grow after being given a second life by the NHL’s restart.
The Canadiens did that, and a whole lot more, Saturday night — with a big hand from a couple veterans.
Jeff Petry scored at 13:57 of overtime, Carey Price made 39 saves and the Montreal Canadiens beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 on Saturday night in Game 1 of their best-of-five qualifying round series.
“Carey was huge throughout that whole first period and gave us a chance,” Julien said. “He made some big saves throughout the whole game, but the first period is where he allowed us to stay in the game.”
Petry, who along with Price are two of the Canadiens’ oldest players at 32, picked up a loose puck in the right faceoff circle and ripped a shot past goalie Matt Murray.
“We’re playing an experienced team,” Julien said. “They’ve won Stanley Cups, they know how to win, and we have what we have. The only chance we have is that we play on our toes and not on our heels.”
The game was played at empty Scotiabank Arena in the NHL’s return following a 142-day absence after COVID-19 ground the sport to a halt.
Jonathan Drouin had a chance to win it for Montreal in overtime on a penalty shot when he was held on a breakaway, but the puck rolled off the end of his stick and dribbled wide.
Pittsburgh’s Conor Sheary also failed on a penalty shot with 3:03 left in regulation, missing the net. The game was the first NHL postseason contest with two penalty shots since March 29, 1923.
Nineteen-year-old Jesperi Kotkaniemi and 20-year-old Nick Suzuki scored to give 12th-seeded Montreal a 2-0 lead early in the second period.
“It gives us a lot of confidence,” Suzuki said. “A lot of people didn’t see us as contenders. We want to show them we can compete with anyone. This is a good first step.”
The fifth-seeded Penguins rallied midway through the period with Sidney Crosby and Bryan Rust connecting in a 2:39 span.
“We’ve just got to heed the lessons,” Rust said. “We did some really good things.”
Montreal killed off a 5-on-3 power play for 1:32 early in the third period despite sustained pressure. Both teams then failed to connect on 5-on-4 advantages, with Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin coming closest from the slot.
Murray stopped 32 shots.
NOTES: The Canadiens and Penguins have met twice before in the postseason, with Montreal winning both times, including a seven-game victory in the second round in 2010. … Pittsburgh had the seventh-best record in the NHL when the season was suspended March 12.
Game 2 is Monday night.