A first taste of home
|Bryan Smolinski got the Canadiens on the board in his Habs debut against the Penguins Tuesday night at the Bell Centre.
“The crowd here tonight was great. Then again, it always is,” said Smolinski following his Bell Centre debut. “There was a lot of energy when we were introduced and that’s not something you get just anywhere.”
While a check in the win column would have been the preferred introduction to his new NHL home, Smolinski did get the Canadiens on the board with a power-play goal early in the second period. After toppling a Penguins player with a subtle crosscheck, Smolinski corralled the puck before roofing a backhand past Pittsburgh’s Dany Sabourin.
“That one was all about not giving up on a play and working hard down low,” said Smolinski. “It felt good to get that goal and it fired the guys up, but we weren’t able to really build on it.”
In addition to chipping in offensively, Smolinski also flexed some muscle on a Canadiens penalty-killing unit that snuffed out all eight Penguins power plays. Paired with PK-lifer Steve Begin, Smolinski looked right at home throwing a monkey wrench into the Penguins plans.
“We have a lot still to work on, but our PK did do the job tonight,” said Smolinski. “'Beige' is a real warrior out there who’s all heart and we all saw that tonight. I think it went well for a first time out together but it’s going to take a little time to get properly in sync.”
Begin was just as comfortable with the 15-year NHL veteran by his side. Rarely pretty but often effective, Smolinski’s sandpaper style makes him the perfect teammate and an unpopular opponent.
“I’ve always been a fan of players like Bryan who play a solid two-way game with an edge,” said Begin. “It started out really intense for us tonight with a full two-minute kill, but we pulled through. It wasn’t an ideal way to break each other in, but we worked well together. Again, I know what kind of a player Bryan is and he’s my style of player.”
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com