(AP) — Brian Elliott was ready for this day. After all, he’d been preparing for it since he was seven years old.
Elliott won his NHL debut, stopping 27 shots Wednesday night to keep the Ottawa Senators perfect with a 3-1 win over the struggling Atlanta Thrashers.
Antoine Vermette scored the tie-breaking goal early in the third period and the Senators made it 5-for-5 in the young season, just one win off the franchise record for most consecutive victories at the start of the season. Ottawa won its first six games in 2005-06.
Elliott did his part to keep the winning streak going, though he wasn’t even expecting to play. He’s only on the roster because No. 1 goalie Ray Emery is recovering from offseason wrist surgery.
"It was a surprise," said Elliott, the 291st overall pick in the 2003 entry draft. "You’re nervous. You’re playing in the NHL. It’s a game you have to be prepared for, and I was prepared."
The Ontario native, who made his professional debut with the Binghamton Senators last spring after finishing his college career at Wisconsin, watched the first four games while Martin Gerber posted a 1.73 goals-against average. But, with the first of back-to-back games, Elliott got the call.
"From age seven, this has been my goal," he said.
Meanwhile in Pittsburgh, Carey Price needed only one game to evoke memories of Patrick Roy.
Exactly 22 years after Roy made his much-hyped NHL debut for the Montreal Canadiens in Pittsburgh, Price did the same and came out with a win, too. Matching the rest of Roy’s Hall of Fame career will certainly be tougher.
"It hasn’t really hit me yet," said the 20-year-old Price after Montreal beat Pittsburgh 3-2 on Wednesday night. "It’s pretty exciting."
Price’s NHL debut was an event that was highly anticipated across Canada after he earned national fame by leading Canada to the World Junior Championship last season, earning MVP honors in the process. The former No. 5 overall pick of the Canadiens also was goaltender of the year in major junior hockey last season and then led Hamilton to the American Hockey League championship last spring.
Price said he was more relaxed for Wednesday’s game than he had been at the World Junior tournament or in the AHL Calder Cup finals.
"If you look at the way he played in the past, like in the World Juniors, he played really well and in Hamilton… when it was time to close a series, he was there and played well," Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau said. "And tonight was one of those games."
Canadiens Hall of Fame goalies Ken Dryden and Roy also made their NHL debuts against the Penguins – Roy’s first game was a 5-3 victory on Oct. 10, 1985.
"I read it in the game notes," said Price, as cool in the postgame meeting with the media as he was between the pipes, "It’s kind of a coincidence. It’s kind of weird that’s how that worked out."
Price, who was taken four spots behind Penguins star Sidney Crosby at the 2005 draft, stopped the reigning NHL scoring champion at least twice during a flurry in front of his net and made a save on Erik Christensen from close range early in the second for two of his best stops.
Montreal center Kyle Chipchura also made his NHL debut in the game. Chipchura had 39 points in 80 games for the Calder Cup champion Bulldogs as a rookie in 2006-07.