SPORTS

Former Sabre Mitchell revels in playoff experience with his hometown Canadiens

04/18/2015 05:08 EDT | Updated 07/06/2015 06:59 EDT
BROSSARD, Que. - A year ago when he was with the Buffalo Sabres, Torrey Mitchell sat in the seats with the roaring, chanting Bell Centre crowd to watch the Montreal Canadiens face the Tampa Bay Lightning in a playoff game.

It's something he had done many times while growing up across the St.Lawrence River from Montreal in Greenfield Park, Que.

Twelve months later, the 30-year-old Mitchell is skating on the ice for the team he grew up cheering for in a playoff battle with the Ottawa Senators.

"I got a pair of tickets, I wanted to see a playoff game at the Bell Centre. That was the extent of it," Mitchell recalled Saturday. "I wasn't in the playoffs and wanted to see a game here.

"I was pretty neutral, but it's pretty hard not to cheer for Montreal in a playoff game when you're surrounded by it, that's for sure."

The Canadiens took the opening two games of the first round-series with the third game slated for Ottawa on Sunday night.

Mitchell, a centre, and winger Brian Flynn were acquired from Buffalo at the March 3 trade deadline. Both needed time to adjust to new surroundings, a new system of play and greater expectations.

The Sabres finished last overall in the NHL, while Montreal led the Atlantic Division with 110 points.

"It was a much different atmosphere," said Mitchell, an eight-year NHL veteran. "Buffalo's in a full rebuild and this team's pushing for a Stanley Cup.

"It's completely one end of the spectrum to the other. It's been really special for me coming to my hometown team and having a chance to play for the Stanley Cup. I wouldn't have thought I'd be in a position like this a couple of months ago."

Montreal GM Marc Bergevin made four deadline deals, also picking up physical winger Devante Smith Pelly from Anaheim and defenceman Jeff Petry from Edmonton. All four needed time to adapt but have been solid in the first two playoff games.

Mitchell had one assist in 14 regular-season games but then scored Montreal's first goal in its 4-3 series-opening win, with an assist from Flynn.

Flynn didn't have a point in nine games but scored the winning goal in Game 1 and another assist on Lars Eller's goal.

Mitchell and Flynn, both right-handed shots the Canadiens were lacking, have skated on the fourth line with Brandon Prust. Smith-Pelly found himself on one of the scoring lines with David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty for a 3-2 overtime win in Game 2.

As was the case with Petry, they were the first playoff games of 26-year-old Flynn's NHL career.

"It's fun, it's exciting," said Flynn. "You get to the rink and you can feel the intensity has picked up a lot.

"You can feel it in the crowd. On the ice, it's a little faster and more physical, but that's what you want."

Flynn is impressed with what he's seen on how the Canadiens are run.

"A lot of dinners with the team, everyone seems to do everything together, which I think is important and kind of different from most teams I've been on," he said. "It's one reason we're successful."

NOTES — The Canadiens held an optional skate. Pacioretty participated but key players like Carey Price, P.K. Subban, Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Markov opted to rest. . . Coach Michel Therrien said winger P.A. Parenteau, who missed Game 2 with an upper-body injury, remains questionable for Sunday. . . A series oddity, the scoring leader for each team, with three points each, are Patrick Wiercioch for Ottawa and a tie between Flynn and Subban for Montreal.

MORE:cpSports