Saku Koivu and defenseman Andrei Markov scored in a 3:12 span of the third period as the Canadiens bounced back from two poor defensive performances and held on for a 3-2 victory over Detroit.
The Red Wings brought back a host of familiar faces as they celebrated their third championship in six years. Former coach Scotty Bowman, former goaltender Dominik Hasek and former defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov were among those on hand.
"It was a very emotional moment. When they unveiled the Stanley Cup and then watching the banners go up, it brought back a lot of memories and emotions, very positive ones," Red Wings first-year coach Dave Lewis said. "Unfortunately, we didn't end the way we started."
Detroit grabbed a 1-0 lead in its home opener, but the Canadiens roared back with the next three goals and recorded their first win at Joe Louis Arena since April 11, 1992.
"It kind of spoiled our night," Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom admitted. "We only played desperate hockey the last 10 minutes. Before that, maybe we played the first five minutes good. Otherwise, we were pretty sloppy. I think we relaxed too much."
"It's a challenge for us," Koivu said. "We knew they would be ready and they showed it in the first period. When you play against Detroit, it's always great to get the win, no matter how many times you play against them."
Andreas Dackell started the comeback 12 seconds into the second period and Koivu put Montreal in front for good at 6:40 of the third. The Canadiens' captain charged down the slot on a 2-on-1 and, while falling, deflected Richard Zednik's centering feed past goaltender Curtis Joseph.
"I was surprised that we got a 2-on-1," Koivu said. "I didn't know if their forward could catch me, but I had a step on him and was able to get open. Zednik made a great play and I had an open net."
Markov gave Montreal some breathing room with an almost identical play. Yanic Perreault fired a pass from high in the right faceoff circle that Markov redirected for his first goal of the season.
"We didn't give them a lot of shots, but the chances they had, Curtis had no opportunity to make the save whatsoever," Lewis said. "So that was difficult for him. I don't think we supported each other very well, whether it's with the puck or whether we made poor decisions with the puck. It looked like we were almost trying to be too fancy for the fans."
Starting in place of Hart Trophy winner Jose Theodore, Jeff Hackett surrendered a late goal to Pavel Datsyuk but made 33 saves for his first win in Detroit in eight decisions. Hackett improved to 2-12-1 lifetime on the road vs. the Red Wings.
"I haven't had much success against these guys in my career," he admitted. "They have always been a great team and it's really nice to get some points. I've had nightmares here. This is the first time I have ever won here."
Hackett appeared headed for another loss when Brendan Shanahan opened the scoring on the power play just 3:28 into the first period. Rookie Henrik Zetterberg made a cross-ice pass from the left circle and Shanahan burst down the right side and deflected it for his third goal of the season.
But that was all Hackett allowed until Pavel Datsyuk converted a feed from Luc Robitaille with 6:23 left in the third.
"Jeff was the reason for the victory tonight," Koivu said. "He made some key saves. In the second and third periods, the whole team played better defensively and helped him. He hasn't played much. I am really happy for him."
Theodore got the night off after allowing 12 goals in consecutive losses to Buffalo and Philadelphia.
"We played a lot smarter today," Koivu said. "I think we all realized after the last two games at home and the first period here that if we play that way, we'd lose all our games. You saw a different team in the second and third periods."
Dackell's tying goal came after Joe Juneau intercepted a cross-ice pass by Lidstrom and made a pinpoint pass from the outer edge of the left circle.