In the Habs” Room Al Montoya makes his statement

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Al Montoya has been making the most of the opportunity that has presented itself with Carey Price on the sidelines with the flu.

“I’ve been trying to make a statement for a while,” Montoya said Tuesday night after he made 36 saves to shut out the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-0 in the Canadiens’ home opener at the Bell Centre.

“It’s an opportunity and I’m just going out here, have some fun and try to win some games,” he said.

The 31-year-old said he has been part of numerous home openers but that Tuesday night’s was a unique experience.

“I think it fired us up, and it also fired up the other team,” Montoya said when asked about the ceremony that culminated in wheelchair-bound former coach Jacques Demers passing the torch to captain Max Pacioretty.

“It was a special moment,” said Montoya, who faced 17 shots in the first period.

Pacioretty scored 23 seconds into the game to open a period that saw both teams pushing the pace.

“We wanted to start off the game on a high note and so did the Penguins,” noted Montoya. “They played last night, but it’s early in the season — it’s not like they’re tired after playing 30 or 40 games. They came out flying and we just weathered the storm.”

Montoya, who was signed as a free agent in the off-season, said he has established a rapport with his defencemen.

“This group talks a lot more than I’m used to, but I’ll take it, even when half of them don’t speak English very well,” he said.  

It was Montoya’s sixth career shutout, but he said the most important thing was to get the win. He said the shutout was like a “cherry on top.”

Montoya did an excellent job of guarding the bottom of the net and controlled the rebounds.

“I know they like to put pucks on net and I focused on making the first save,’’ he said. “If there’s a rebound, the (defence) got it out of the way.”

Montoya and the Canadiens are 2-0-1 to open the season, and the goaltender has a 1.30 goals-against average with a .962 save percentage.

Pacioretty had a goal and an assist, but shrugged off the significance of his first goal.

“The important thing is the win; it’s all about the team,” said Pacioretty, who had coach Michel Therrien smiling when he jumped into the fray in defence of linemate Alex Galchenyuk.

“He had a really, really good game,” said Therrien. “The players fed off Patch’s leadership; he was involved for the whole game.”

David Desharnais scored two goals, including one on the tail end of a blind backhand pass from Pacioretty. While they no longer play on the same line, they still have a chemistry that was forged years ago in the AHL.

“I know he saw me, but it was still a great pass on his backhand,” said Desharnais. “I basically had two tap-ins tonight and when I get those chances, I have to put them in.”

Alexander Radulov scored his first goal as a Canadien and showed the skill that made him the No. 2 all-time scorer in the KHL.

“It was an emotional night for him, opening night,” said Therrien. “He took some penalties, but those things happen and he responded the right way. It was a terrific goal. Only a couple of players are capable of scoring a goal like that.”

Rookie defenceman Mikhail Sergachev, whose parents were in town from Moscow, played only 8:30 but Therrien said he was better than in his debut last Thursday in Buffalo.

“We got a lot of penalties tonight, and that’s the reason he didn’t play a lot,” said Therrien.

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