Montreal Canadiens defeat Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1 in first game at Videotron Centre

Montreal Canadiens defeat Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1 in first game at Videotron Centre

Main pic: Montreal Canadiens’ Brendan Gallagher, second from left, gets pushed by Pittsburgh Penguins’ Marc Andre Fleury during second period NHL exhibition hockey action on Monday, September 28, 2015, at the Videotron centre in Quebec City. Photo credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot.

QUEBEC — The first NHL game at the new Videotron Centre was hardly a classic.

But that was to be expected when the Pittsburgh Penguins showed up to face the Montreal Canadiens in a pre−season game without big guns Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel.

But even with a roster of mostly veterans, the Canadiens had to grind out a 4−1 victory on Monday night before a sellout crowd of 18,259 who seemed split between those cheering for Montreal and the fans who haven’t forgotten the defunct Quebec Nordiques.

Quebec City is pushing hard to bring back the defunct Nordiques, who were Montreal’s hottest rivals from 1979 to 1995.

“It was a pre−season game and the level of emotion of the players wasn’t at its peak,” Montreal coach Michel Therrien said of the game. “But we saw some good things.”

“We played a good game overall. We were very good in the third period.”

Alexander Semin scored his first goal of the pre−season while Lars Eller, Brian Finn and Dale Weise, with an empty−net goal, also scored for Montreal. Carey Price played the entire game in net and made 22 saves.

Beau Bennett scored for Pittsburgh, while Marc−Andre Fleury made 24 saves.

Most players enjoyed the experience and said they liked the new rink, although Pittsburgh defenceman Kris Letang said there is still work to do.

“The ice wasn’t NHL quality,” he said. “It was hard. The puck was bouncing a lot.

“And with the (black) logos at centre ice, you lost sight of the puck.”

His teammate Pascal Dupuis and Montreal’s David Desharais had no complaints, adding that the ice was better than at the old Colisee where the Nordiques played.

Whatever the quality of play, it allowed Montreal’s brass to get a better handle on what roster decisions need to be made before the regular season begins Oct. 7.

After the game, forward Nikita Scherbak was assigned to St. John’s of the AHL, leaving 30 players in camp.

Therrien liked the work of the new line with Alex Galchenuk between Eller and Semin.

“You can see they maintained the chemistry they’ve had since the start of camp,” said Therrien. “They’re enjoying playing together and they’re trying to make plays.”

The line of David Desharnais with Weise and veteran Tomas Fleischmann, who is on a tryout and who once again showed he is pushing hard for a contract.

“He has good speed and reads the play well,” the coach said of Fleischmann. “He has a lot going in his favour.”

Off−season free agent signing Semin scored 13:36 into the game when he took a drop pass from Galchenyuk and saw the rebound of his shot pushed in inadvertently by Letang.

Fate handed it back at 15:28 when Bennett tied it on a power play when his pass from the left side was redirected past Price by Weise.

The Canadiens were on a four−minute power play when Eller shifted an Andrei Markov pass behind Fleury.

Flynn defected a Markov shot in at 2:31 of the third.

Robert Laflamme, The Canadian Press

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