MONTREAL -- Patrick Roy said Monday he did not want his first game as an NHL coach in Montreal to be about him.
It wasn't. It was about Thomas Vanek.
Vanek scored a hat trick, including the game-winner and the insurance goal in the third period of a 6-3 victory for the Montreal Canadiens against Roy and the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday.
Nathan MacKinnon, Maxime Talbot and Jamie McGinn scored for the Avalanche (44-20-5), who lost for the third time in 10 games.
Vanek had not scored in his first five games with the Canadiens since his acquisition from the New York Islanders prior to the NHL Trade Deadline, and after missing a chance in the first period he was seen slamming his stick against the door to the Montreal bench in frustration.
That feeling did not last.
Vanek scored Montreal's first goal at 7:44 of the second period, broke a 3-3 tie at 14:45 of the third period by completing a tic-tac-toe passing play on a power play, and made it 5-3 on a deflection at 17:40 of the third, leading the crowd to chant his name in Bell Centre.
Prior to the game, it was assumed those chants would be reserved for Roy. In the past, when former a player returned to face the Canadiens, the team often used television timeouts to show him on the scoreboard and give the fans a chance to react.
In the case of Roy, that moment came briefly during the singing of the "Star-Spangled Banner," and the crowd roared so loud the American national anthem was drowned out as a result.
But that was it; the puck was dropped and the teams on the ice took over the show, just like Roy wanted.
Except for the result.
Early on it looked as though the Avalanche were going to run the Canadiens out of their own building, just missing on numerous chances and controlling the play for most of the first period, and it paid off when MacKinnon had a dominant shift toward the end.
The rookie forward controlled the puck and dazzled with a stickhandling display that kept the Canadiens off balance throughout the shift, helping the Avalanche maintain control in the offensive zone. MacKinnon was rewarded when the puck bounced out in front right on his stick, and he made a quick move to the backhand to beat Carey Price for his 23rd goal of the season at 18:03.
The Canadiens tied it 1-1 on Vanek's first goal, which came as a result of a play he began with a heady pass to David Desharnais on an open wing before cutting to the net. Desharnais entered the zone, drew Avalanche goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere out of position, and threw the puck into the slot where Vanek tapped it in for his 22nd goal of the season.
The Avalanche regained the lead at 9:33 of the second when Matt Duchene found Talbot alone in front of the net for his eighth of the season.
Montreal tied it again 48 seconds later on a spectacular goal by its fourth line. Prust dove to chip a puck into the slot to Moen, who caught it, spun and whipped a backhand inside the near post at 10:21. It was his second goal of the season, first in 43 games.
Prust gave the Canadiens their first lead when he one-timed a slap shot from the slot past Giguere at 3:33 of the third period, but McGinn tied it for the Avalanche at 10:05 when he collected his rebound and put a backhand behind Price to make it 3-3.