Monahan, Canadiens hang on to edge Islanders in Roy's homecoming
MONTREAL — Patrick Roy arrived in Montreal focused on getting a win and nothing else in his highly publicized homecoming.
His New York Islanders fell just short.
Sean Monahan scored twice — including a late game-winner — and added an assist while Sam Montembeault stopped 43 shots as the Montreal Canadiens held off an Islanders comeback to win 4-3 on Thursday night.
“It was obviously a fun game,” said Montembeault, of Becancour, Que. “You see Patrick’s picture right there in the locker room, so it was really exciting right from the start.
“I was excited to play that game and I’m really happy to get the win.”
Roy, a franchise icon who goaltended the Canadiens to Stanley Cups in 1986 and 1993, was hired as Islanders head coach on Saturday after over seven years away from the NHL.
He received a deafening ovation from the Bell Centre crowd when the Canadiens displayed a photo montage of their former netminder during “O Canada.”
"I'd like to thank the Montreal Canadiens for that,” Roy said. “I mean, it was really nice of them, what they did, and the fans were just like usual, this is a good crowd."
The Canadiens led 3-1 with nine minutes remaining in the third period when forward Brendan Gallagher caught Islanders defenceman Adam Pelech with a clear elbow to the head at centre ice — giving New York a chance to get back in the game.
Gallagher received a match penalty for his actions, and Barzal and Palmieri scored on the ensuing five-minute power play to even the score with 3:32 left.
“The penalties, we shot ourselves in the foot with those,” Canadiens head coach Martin St. Louis said despite the win. “We gave them a chance to get back in the game.”
Monahan fired a one-timer into the Islanders net with 2:12 remaining to make it 4-3 Montreal and bail out his team.
The Canadiens hung on despite a late Islanders push, which included several saves by Montembeault and a shot off the post from Horvat in the dying seconds.
“That last 15 seconds felt like it was five minutes,” Montembeault said.
Montembeault, who also earned an assist on Monahan’s first goal, said he hoped Roy approved of his performance.
“Hopefully," he said about Roy's approval. "He’s a Habs legend from Quebec. It was really fun right from the start during the anthem.
“The crowd was screaming the whole time, if that doesn’t make you want to play hockey, I don’t know what will.”
Mathew Barzal and Bo Horvat had a goal and assist each, Noah Dobson had three assists and Kyle Palmieri also scored for New York (20-17-11) while Semyon Varlamov made 22 saves. The Islanders fell to 1-2-0 under their new coach.
New York didn’t have an update on Pelech post-game.
"I think we all saw what happened,” Roy said of Gallagher’s hit. “I'm sure the league's going to look at it. That's all I can say for now."
Roy was the main attraction entering the night, with fans sporting his jerseys and holding signs during warm-ups that read “Bon Retour 33,” a shout-out to his No. 33 that hangs in the Bell Centre rafters.
The passionate Roy was his usual animated self on the Islanders bench — yelling and pointing to his players throughout the game.
Despite trying to keep the focus on winning in the lead-up, Roy had to use his timeout before the game was 13 minutes old because the Canadiens jumped out to a 3-0 lead after the thrilling ovation.
“I think it was a big moment for Patrick and the fans,” St. Louis said of the anthem. “I think our team fed off that energy. It was a great experience.”
Suzuki opened the scoring at 7:06 of the first period before Caufield doubled Montreal’s lead at 11:36 by dancing around Varlamov.
Just 43 seconds later, Monahan scored another power-play goal and made it 3-0, causing Roy to try and rally his players.
"I thought that we were tested there,” Roy said. “We didn't need to give up another.
“After the period, we gathered and we talked and there's some stuff that I thought we started doing very well and I was very proud of our guys, how resilient we were to tie the game."
Earlier in the first, Montembeault made his best impression of Roy with back-to-back saves on Barzal and Anders Lee to keep the game scoreless.
New York poured in 18 shots to Montreal’s seven in the second period, but only got one goal back.
Horvat scored his 20th of the season 16 seconds into a two-man advantage to get New York on the board before the Islanders tied it in the third.
Canadiens: Visit the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday for a final game before their bye week.
Islanders: Host the Florida Panthers on Saturday before a weeklong break of their own.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2024.