Al Montoya had done a nice job in net, filling in the previous three games for the Montreal Canadiens.
But on Thursday, Carey Price made his long-awaited season debut for the Habs.
A knee injury that ended his 2015-16 season for good following a Nov. 25 start, and a flu to begin this season had, for far too long, kept him out of the Montreal lineup, which desperately needed their star goalie, especially as the Canadiens faltered last season.
In his return against the Arizona Coyotes, he delivered a solid performance in net, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, given what he was able to do for Canada at the World Cup.
Against the Coyotes, he made 27 saves, as the Canadiens took over in the second period and went on to a 5-2 victory. Shea Weber scored his first goal as a member of the Canadiens, deploying his booming slap shot on the power play.
But the night should belong to Price.
This has been a long time coming for Price, the Habs and their fans, who watched with frustration as Montreal’s terrific start to last season faded with Price injured.
He gave up two goals in the second period, and that was it. Coyotes rookie defenseman Jakob Chychrun scored his first NHL goal, but Arizona never really got too close.
By then, the Habs were in control. And with Price as their goalie, just about every lead can feel like a comfortable one when he’s at the top of his game.
The Canadiens improved their record to 3-0-1. Another good start. A healthy Price gives them the best shot at sustaining it.