BET À DAY
Mike Matheson was in the thick of the action against the Philadelphia Flyers yesterday. Whether for good or bad reasons.
The 28-year-old defenseman had to get into the action quickly in his first official game in the uniform of his boyhood team after suffering an abdominal muscle injury early in training camp.
“For sure I never played with the players on the team except [Mike] Hoffman and 'Dady' [Evgenii Dadonov] in Florida [with the Panthers]. When I started the first half, I wasn't too sure what the others were doing, but it's normal, it's going to come, it's natural. The more games I'm going to play, it's going to get better and better,” assured Matheson after the Canadian's victory, 5 to 4 in the shootout.
His beginnings were not easy. He was on the ice for the visitors' first two goals at the Bell Center in his first two appearances. If he missed his cover on the first sequence, he has nothing to be ashamed of on the second. Owen Tippett used Joel Edmundson as a screen and the puck deflected off the stick from the back. Matheson was just a helpless witness.
“After the first period, we talked and we thought that hockey always finds a way to test you, he said. It would be too easy to start the first match and score on the first shift. We bounced back well.”
The native of Pointe-Claire, on the island of Montreal, wanted nothing to do with an extra role. He pulled himself together, gaining pace, confidence, speed. He revived the attack well and the chemistry with Edmundson seemed to be there.
One goal, one penalty
Matheson even experienced the thrill of scoring in his first game with the Canadiens in front of his family. Well advanced in the slot, he accepted a pass from Nick Suzuki to beat Carter Hart with a shot to his right, giving CH a 3-2 lead midway through the second period.
“C sure it's special. It's a moment I won't forget. It’s hard to describe,” he said.
But 63 seconds before retreating to the locker room, the number 8 of the Habs received a double minor for high stick. A long four minutes that his teammates successfully passed.
Martin St-Louis was not afraid to use it at the end of the third when the CH tried to equalize the score. The head coach also sent him into the fray in overtime. He illustrated himself differently, by blocking a throw. He finished his evening's work with 24 min 22 s.
So it was a good first test for Matheson, and physically he responded.
“C It was amazing to see him tonight [yesterday]. He worked so hard to come back to the game. He was in great shape. We are very happy to see him back with us,” said Brendan Gallagher.
“He is a phenomenon, he never looks tired. It is constituted differently, added Edmundson. […] His presence is important. He can play for several minutes and his speed is an asset in different situations. It's a bonus to have him with us.”