Buffalo fans walked in ready to party. They chanted after the drop of the puck, loudly cheered power plays and jeered penalty calls.
It was noticeably different from the library atmosphere of recent seasons.
Victories could make it even better.
The Sabres dropped their season opener in KeyBank Center as Montreal left with a 3-2 shootout victory. Jonathan Drouin scored the only goal of the breakaway challenge as Jacob Josefson, Jason Pominville and Sam Reinhart came up short for Buffalo.
Pominville scored twice in regulation as the Sabres outshot the Canadiens, 45-40. They had a 41-37 edge in regulation.
Happy return: Aside from the expected roar for Jack Eichel, Pominville received the loudest ovation during pregame introductions. He gave the fans more reasons to cheer with the first goal of the season.
Just as a Montreal penalty was expiring, Sabres forward Seth Griffith gained control of the puck in the Canadiens' zone. He found Pominville in the slot, and the right winger beat goaltender Carey Price with a backhand.
Pominville, who was traded to Minnesota in 2013 and reacquired this summer, last scored for the Sabres on March 21, 2013.
Pacioretty the pickpocket: The Canadiens tied it, 1-1, with 2:04 left in the first, and Max Pacioretty made it all happen. He hounded Ryan O'Reilly into a turnover in the Sabres' zone, then got in position to send a one-timer between the pads of Lehner.
The Canadiens opened with a 7-0 shot lead, fell into an 8-7 hole and finished the first period with a 17-11 edge.
Second thoughts: Just 22 seconds into the second period, Pominville scored his second.
Eichel helped immensely. Pominville found open space to the left side of the net, and Eichel spotted him. Passing from the right boards, Eichel whipped the puck past two Montreal players to the waiting stick of his right winger.
Short stop: The Canadiens' penalty-kill unit scored with 11:59 to play, tying it at 2-2. Shea Weber dumped the puck behind Buffalo's net, and Philip Danault quickly came back out from the same direction. He banked the puck home off the skate of Lehner, who pounded the ice with both hands.
Missed chance: The Sabres, who had the best power play in the NHL last season, had a five-on-three for 1:18 midway through the second. They failed to connect.
Buffalo outshot Montreal, 18-10, during the second to take a 29-27 lead. Sabres left wing Evander Kane had nine of the shots through 40 minutes.
Not in: Officials went to video review with 14:26 left after a wraparound by Montreal's Alex Hemsky. The puck hit Lehner's stick and went toward the net, but the goalie stopped it before it crossed the line.
High-priced scratches: Defenseman Zach Bogosian missed the game with a lower-body injury and didn't participate in the morning skate. Forward Matt Moulson and defenseman Josh Gorges were the Sabres' healthy scratches.
Moulson and Gorges have a combined 1,385 games played and an $8.9 million cap hit.
"I respect the veterans that are not playing, obviously," coach Phil Housley said. "But moving forward you never know what can happen. Changes can be made Saturday. Changes might come Monday."
More experience: The Sabres' opening-night roster (including scratches) had combined to play 7,866 games. That was 1,044 more than the 23 players on last year's opening-night roster.
Buffalo set a franchise record by having 10 players in the lineup who didn't play for the team last season.
Getting started: The Sabres fell to 24-18-5 in their 47 season openers. They are 21-19-7 in home openers.
Counting the house: The Sabres announced a sellout of 19,070. The crowd included Sabres Hall of Famer Gilbert Perreault, Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy and defensive tackle Kyle Williams.
Next: The Sabres take their show on the road when they visit the New York Islanders at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Story topics: Jason Pominville