MONTREAL — Harry Novillo is doing his best to help the Montreal Impact weather the absence of Ignacio Piatti.

Novillo scored his first MLS goal Saturday to give the Impact a 1-0 win against Columbus Crew SC in their home opener at Stade Saputo, a satisfying end to a stretch where he's played three games in eight days, starting twice.

“It’s always good to score,” Novillo said. “The first one is always the hardest one to get, after that you hope more will follow. But the most important thing is for the group to get the three points.”

Despite signing with the Impact early this past offseason, Novillo only saw the field once during Montreal's first four matches of 2019, in part because of a lost passport.

But the 27-year-old Frenchman left his mark in his debut, a 16-minute shift in Montreal's 3-0 win at Orlando City on March 16 that saw him set up the back half of Piatti's brace.

With Piatti sidelined by a knee injury, Novillo missed the Impact’s 7-1 loss at Sporting Kansas City on March 30 because of said passport situation. Coach Remi Garde inserted him on the left side up front for Montreal’s 0-0 tie against New York City FC at Yankee Stadium on April 6, then played him as a late sub in another scoreless draw at D.C. United last Tuesday.

“You know Piatti is like a big piece in this team and to take his position is a big responsibility,” Novillo said. “I'm trying the best that I can to fill the gap and trying to help the team as much as I can with the quality that I have. And it shows 100 percent that we are missing him really bad and we just hope that he's going to be back as soon as possible.”

Novillo's goal against Columbus was the Impact’s first while posting clean sheets in three straight games. And Garde believes it's just a hint of what is to come.

“I'm happy for him because the first time you play in a stadium it's very important to to do well,” Garde said after a victory that was important, but also perhaps flattered to deceive at times. “He scored, but I know that Harry can give more to the team, much more to the team."