The Montreal Canadiens took advantage of a sleep-walking Toronto Maple Leafs team and dominated their bitter rivals in a 5-2 win Monday and thanks to the Bell Centre being back at 50-percent again, they were able to celebrate the win with their fans.
”Even at 50% it feels full,” said Cole Caufield who remained hot with a goal and two assists and was named the game’s top star.
The Montreal Canadiens haven’t played in front of more than 500 people since before December 16th. That was the day they were set to play against the Philadelphia Flyers but the provincial authorities locked down the Bell Centre an hour before puck drop. The Bell Centre has been essentially empty since then with the capacity going back up to 500 late last month. On Monday night though, the team was allowed to have their usually electric home barn back to 50-percent capacity and it was clear a rejuvenated Montreal Canadiens squad fed off the human energy and noise, instead of the artificial, video game noise that’s been blasted in for far too long.
The Canadiens jumped out to an early 2-0 lead after the first period and headed to the third period up 5-0 before the Leafs snapped the shutout for Habs goalie Samuel Montembeault at 4:43 of the final frame and added another from Pierre Engvall at 5:28. Those two goals weren’t enough though to prevent those in attendance from belting out into the first human version of ‘Ole Ole Ole!’ at least twice in the remaining 14:32 and to join in unison singing the chorus of the John Denver classic ‘Country Road’ twice as well. For the Montreal Canadiens, the sweet symphony of their fans singing and cheers made the Bell Centre feel like home again.
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”It was nice it was to come out to warmups and seeing fans in the building and hearing them chant,” said winger Josh Anderson who was the second star after scoring two goals and adding an assist. “It’s one of the best places to play in the NHL” and that they were motivated to ”give the fans something to cheer about”.
The Montreal Canadiens are expecting to have permission for full capacity as of March 14th if all goes well. A return of the fans, the excitement toward the future, the appointment of Martin Saint-Louis as head coach, and the upcoming NHL Draft have given a new breath of fresh air to the franchise and have given everyone a newfound hope that the best is yet to come.