Newly acquired Montreal Canadiens defenceman Justin Barron checked off another item on his bucket list Sunday night when he made his Canadiens debut.
The Montreal Canadiens erased a 2-0 deficit to force extra time but ultimately fell to the New Jersey Devils 3-2 in a seven-round shootout Sunday night.
It was another great effort and hard-earned point for the Habs but that nor the score won’t be what Barron remembers most from Sunday. After growing up in Halifax, Nova Scotia and watching the Montreal Canadiens on television regularly, throwing on the CH for the first time was a memory Barron will cherish forever.
“It was really special; honestly like a dream come true,” Barron told reporters after his first game in Bleu, Blanc, Rouge. “Growing up it’s a team I watched a ton and it was pretty special putting on that jersey. It was an exciting first game, too bad we didn’t get the win and the two points but overall, it was a great experience.”
Barron, who was acquired a week ago, hours before the NHL Trade Deadline, looked comfortable on both sides of the puck and his performance during regulation actually earned him a spot on the ice in overtime alongside Montreal Canadiens young guns, Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki.
“Just excitement honestly,” Barron said when asked how he felt about the OT promotion. “Two great players in ‘Suuz’ [Suzuki] and ‘Collie’ [Caufield], and nice to see he has the confidence in me to go out and start in overtime. Just really exciting.”
After the game, Montreal Canadiens head coach Martin St. Louis made sure to point out that Barron earned those overtime shifts.
“It’s a sign of trust from his coach. He’s an offensive guy. So you put those guys in that kind of scenario, a lot of space and time, they’re going to do offensive things,” St. Louis said.
Barron didn’t register a point in the 17:55 and 25 shifts he played Sunday but finished the game with three shots and a hit. For the majority of those shifts, Barron was paired with veteran defenceman Joel Edmundson.
“It was great playing with Joel back there,” Barron said of his new d-partner. “He helped keep me calm and he’s obviously a great player with tons of experience so I think he definitely helped a lot. Overall, I thought I played pretty good; settled in as the game went on and I thought overall, I had a pretty good game.”
That ‘pretty good game’ may not have been as good if Barron had been making his NHL debut Sunday and not just in his first game with Montreal Canadiens. Barron was able to get into two games with the Colorado Avalanche this season and the 20-year-old rearguard believes that experience did wonders for how calm he was on Sunday.
“I think for sure they did,” Barron acknowledged. “I think getting those two games under my belt, even though they were a while ago, they kind of gave me a taste of what the league’s like and then I came into [Sunday] with a little more confidence and wasn’t as nervous during the game.”
Now the focus for Justin Barron will be to remain in the Canadiens lineup and rack up more game experience down the stretch.
“I think this a great opportunity,” Barron said. “It was tough to get into the lineup in Colorado but still a great team here and I’m just trying to come in and obviously they gave me an opportunity to play and it’s up to me to prove myself and stay in the lineup.”