OTTAWA — Mike Condon will always remember his NHL debut — and for good reason.
Condon made 20 saves as the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Ottawa Senators 3-1 Sunday night.
“It was exciting and I thought the guys played an awesome game,” said Condon. “I think we only had 15 shots against going into the third period and then only maybe five or six scoring chances so it made my workload very light.”
Condon’s performance not only spoiled the Senators home opener for the 19,177 on hand at Canadian Tire Centre, but Matt O’Connor as well.
The Senators goaltender was also making his NHL debut, but things didn’t go quite so smoothly for the 23-year-old as the Senators clearly didn’t play their best game.
“I think after the first goal I thought Matt was good,” said Senators coach Dave Cameron. “He certainly wasn’t our issue (Sunday).”
Cameron described the game as “a long night.”
Tomas Plekanec, with two goals, and Torrey Mitchell scored for the Canadiens, who remain undefeated (3-0-0) to start the season.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored the lone goal for the Senators (2-1-0), while O’Connor made 31 saves.
Both teams were playing the second of back-to-back games.
The Canadiens held a 2-1 lead going into the third and while both teams created a number of great chances to start the period it was the Canadiens who were able to regain a two-goal lead on Mitchell’s goal at the five-minute mark.
Mitchell redirected P.K. Subban’s shot from just inside the blue line, leaving O’Connor with little chance.
“I felt better as the game went on, but obviously I wanted to win,” said O’Connor. “It was a bit of a goalie duel with Condon getting his first NHL game as well.
“There’s some stuff to work on, but overall felt pretty comfortable and felt like I made a good effort.”
Pageau, who had missed on a great chance earlier in the period, cut the lead to one midway through the second with a short-handed goal as he and Curtis Lazar broke in on a two-on-one.
The Senators played much of the second period shorthanded as they took five minor penalties. The Canadiens, however, were unable to capitalize on their power-play opportunities despite having a two-man advantage for 1:09. Montreal finished 0-for-7 on the power-play.
“You’re chasing the game (when you’re shorthanded),” said Cameron. “The biggest thing about it, especially in a back-to-back games and three in four, is that you’re shortening your bench and a lot of guys are playing too much and other guys are sitting there. It’s not good for your team.”
Both young goaltenders were tested early and made a number of saves to keep the game scoreless.
“(Condon) made some key saves at the right time,” said Canadiens coach Michel Therrien. “This is just something that he did through the course of the training camp and he played really well for us…to get the first win is always something special for any player.”
Plekanec opened the scoring at the nine-minute mark as he beat O’Connor with a sharp angle shot. Then he made it 2-0 late in the period as he broke in alone and beat O’Connor through the legs.
Notes: D Erik Karlsson played his 400th career game, while LW Milan Michalek played his 700th. Senators’ owner Eugene Melnyk was on hand to drop the puck with his two daughters… This was the first time Melnyk was seen at a game since undergoing a liver transplant this past spring… Condon and O’Connor are the first goaltenders to make their first NHL start on the same night since October 14, 1967.
Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press