Backstrom and Wild blank Habs
MONTREAL (AP)—Niklas Backstrom stopped 25 shots and Stephane Veilleux had a goal and an assist in the Minnesota Wild’s 3-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night in the final NHL preseason game for both teams.
Marian Gaborik and Antii Miettinen also scored for Minnesota, which finished with a 5-2-0 record. The Wild hosts Boston in the season opener one week from now.
“It’s both good and bad,” Backstrom said of the seven-day break between games. “We have time to rest, but we’ve played seven games in 11 nights so I think we got into a good rhythm. We have to be sharp to keep up that pace and be ready for next Saturday.”
Montreal, which went 6-3-0 in the preseason, begins its 100th season Friday in Buffalo.
“Overall, I think we had a good camp and we’ll be ready for the season,” said Canadiens head coach Guy Carbonneau, who quantified the loss to the Wild as one of only two poor preseason efforts by the team.
Gaborik opened the scoring when he beat Carey Price 5:24 in. Veilleux, who assisted on Minnesota’s first goal, scored at 7:09 to increase the Wild’s lead to 2-0. James Sheppard assisted on both goals.
Miettinen capped the scoring with a goal 2:14 into the third.
“They’re a really good team,” Veilleux said. “It was a good test for us tonight and I think we showed that we’re ready to start the season on the right foot.”
“He sucker-punched me there,” Begin said. “I never saw it coming so I guess I had to go, but when you start like that, you start minus one.”
Reitz acknowledged that he had taken note of Begin’s hit on Gaborik, adding that he saw red when he saw the Canadiens left wing jumped into a skirmish involving Reitz, teammate Eric Belanger and Montreal’s Maxim Lapierre as the final siren sounded.
“After the whistle, Lapierre gave Belanger an elbow, I crosschecked Lapierre, and then Begin came in there,” Reitz said when told of Begin’s accusation. “If he’s going to come in there, I mean, don’t stick your face out unless you want to get hit.”
Price, who entered with a 2-0 mark and a 1.76 goals-against-average in three preseason games, made 22 saves.
Montreal finished first overall in the Eastern Conference last season after missing the playoffs for the fifth time in eight seasons in 2006-07.
The Canadiens, who are expected to be among the top teams in the East, have a wide range of celebrations planned over the next two seasons, leading up to the 100th anniversary of the team’s founding as an original member of the National Hockey Association on Dec. 4, 1909—eight years before the creation of the NHL.
The Bell Centre will host the 57th NHL All-Star Game in January and the league’s entry draft in June.
“Obviously there’s going to be more attention and more stuff going on off the ice but I think the guys were used to some of that in the last couple of years,” Canadiens captain Saku Koivu said. “When you talk about the pressure and the expectations, I think we created that last year. It’s an exciting feeling and we know we’re not going to surprise people anymore, so we just have to be ready from day one.”