MONTREAL - Like his career in Montreal, Jose Theodore’s first game against the Canadiens started off strong before ending quite badly.
Sheldon Souray had two goals and two assists and Chris Higgins scored Montreal’s fourth power-play goal midway through the third, leading the Canadiens to an 8-5 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night in Theodore’s return to the Bell Centre.
Higgins scored his fifth of the season 10:55 into the third, tapping a loose puck behind Theodore and over the goal line to put Montreal ahead 6-5.
“I’m sure coming in here was special for him, but for us it’s just another game and he’s just another goalie,” Souray said.
The sold-out crowd of 21,273 chanted “Theo! Theo!” after Alex Kovalev scored his third of the season at 12:48, then cheered loudly once again as Mike Johnson made it a three-goal lead at 13:54 on the Canadiens’ fifth goal of the period.
“I heard it all game,” Theodore said. “I pretty much expected it.”
Craig Rivet came out of the penalty box and beat Theodore on a breakaway earlier in the period to give Montreal — which trailed 3-0 in the first — its first lead at 5-4.
“I don’t know where that one came from,” Saku Koivu said of Rivet’s finishing of his breakaway pass. “I can tell that he was happy. It was a good one.”
Colorado’s Andrew Brunette scored his second goal of the game 8:43 into the third to tie the score at 5.
“I don’t think it’s the right thing to do,” Brunette said of crowd’s treatment of Theodore and Avalanche defenseman Patrice Brisebois, a member of the Canadiens last Stanley Cup-winning team in 1993 who also returned to Montreal for the first time.
“I think they played well for them all those years and they were lucky to have them. If that’s the way they feel about those guys, then shame on them.”
Joe Sakic had a goal and an assist to move within three points of 1,500 for his career, and Paul Stastny scored his first career goal. Tyler Arnason also scored for the Avalanche.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
“These are games that build character, that build confidence,” Souray said. “It sends a message, to ourselves, really, that we can be down in games and not be out.”
Souray scored his first of two power-play goals 17:20 into the first before adding his second 4:22 into the second to draw the Canadiens to within 3-2.
Arnason got his third goal at 6:26, before Souray drew an assist on Sergei Samsonov’s second goal at 9:23 to make it 4-3.
Traded to Colorado for David Aebischer in a deadline deal on March 8 deadline, Theodore allowed five third-period goals to the delight of his former fans.
The 2001-02 league MVP, who had 23 shutouts with the Canadiens, was greeted with boos from the crowd when he led the Avalanche onto the ice prior to the game.
Brisebois, a frequent target of boos during his 14 seasons in Montreal, was booed when his assist was announced on Arnason’s goal, as well as every time he touched the puck throughout the game.
Notes: Stastny changed uniform numbers from No. 62 to No. 26. D John-Paul Liles gave him the number which was worn by Hall of Famer Peter Stastny, Paul’s father, during his career with the Quebec Nordiques, who retired the number in his honor prior to the franchise’s move to Denver. “I was grateful to John-Michael for handing down his jersey to me,” Stastny said. “I felt honored to wear the same number as my old man did.” ... Liles switched to No. 4, previously worn by his idol and former teammate Rob Blake. ... Each of Souray’s team-leading five goals have come on the power play.
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