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Montreal Canadiens' Ben Maxwell shoots on Ottawa Senators goalie Pascal Leclaire during first period NHL preseason hockey action Friday, September 18, 2009 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz (Ryan Remiorz)
Montreal Canadiens' Ben Maxwell shoots on Ottawa Senators goalie Pascal Leclaire during first period NHL preseason hockey action Friday, September 18, 2009 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz (Ryan Remiorz)

Gionta scores winner in Habs debut Add to ...

Brian Gionta wasn't going to be left behind by his fellow newcomers to the Montreal Canadiens.

The veteran winger scored with 4:24 left in the third period on Friday night to lift the Canadiens to a 2-1 NHL pre-season victory over the Ottawa Senators.

That matched Montreal's two other high profile forward acquisitions in the off-season, Scott Gomez and Mike Cammalleri, who had each scored in their first pre-season game in a 3-2 win over Florida on Thursday night.

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"They started out quick and put the pressure on the guys who were playing in the second game," said a smiling Gionta, a former New Jersey Devil. "But it felt good to be out there and be part of it, and it feels good to get one under my belt."

Gionta took a feed in the slot from Tomas Plekanec on a rush and saw his shot hit a stick in front and go over goaltender Robin Lehner, who replaced starter Pascal Leclaire to start the third period.

Ben Maxwell also scored for Montreal (2-0) while Ottawa newcomer Milan Michalek scored on only his second shift of his first game with the Senators (0-3).

The two teams will play again Saturday night in Ottawa.

"For sure, it was nice to get the first one, but it's only the first game and hopefully it'll be better and better," said Michalek. "I only had two practices, but we have four more games to go so it will get better, I think.

"It's nice to score in Montreal. I spent the summer here training and I have a lot of friends. And it's good to get that first one under your belt."

Michalek was acquired along with Jonathan Cheechoo last week in the trade that sent disgruntled winger Dany Heatley to San Jose.

He took a feed in the slot from Jason Spezza and got off a quick shot that went in off a post behind Jaroslav Halak. Michalek uses his big body to play in front of the net on the power play, clearing room for Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson to play the puck.

"They're unbelievable players," Michalek said of his new linemates. "We had good chances, but we had some breakdowns in the defensive zone and we have to get better there."

Maxwell tied it on a freak play on a power play 15:15 into the second frame when Glen Metropolit's dump-in went off a linesman's skate and sent him in alone to deke Leclaire. Maxwell had been stopped on a short-handed breakaway in the first period.

Former Canadiens winger Alex Kovalev was not in the Senators lineup, nor was Cheechoo.

Montreal winger Max Pacioretty played on a line with Plekanec and Gionta. Newcomer Travis Moen, who had skated with Gionta in camp, was with Maxwell and Mike Glumac.

New defencemen Hal Gill and Paul Mara also saw their first action.

Gionta saw 22:21 of ice time, second highest on the Canadiens behind Mara's 25:21.

Ottawa centre Jesse Winchester was helped off the ice late in the game favouring a leg, but there was no word on his condition.

The Senators dressed nine NHL regulars and Montreal used eight in a largely uneventful game.

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