The Montreal Canadiens’ pre-season campaign continued as they kicked off a back-to-back series, this time against the Ottawa Senators. The roster heading to Canada’s capital was largely the same as that of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the last game. It did, however, include another debut for the Habs as Sami Niku was fit for his Montreal debut after signing late last week after his contract was mutually terminated in Winnipeg.
The Habs jumped off to a solid start, with the duo Rafaël Harvey-Pinard and Jake Evans finding a rhythm early on. Harvey-Pinard found the open space in the Ottawa zone and filtered a perfect pass to Evans, who fired it five holes, but was denied by Matt Murray’s pads.
Then it was Niku’s turn to try and build some pressure deep in the Ottawa zone, and he did so while centering a feed for Christian Dvorak. However, Niku was caught deep and Jonathan Drouin was too late in his rotation to cover his spot, allowing Ottawa to cause an odd-man rush.
While Ben Chiarot knocked out the passing goal perfectly, Austin Watson fired a shot that snuck through a sliding Jake Allen to give Ottawa the lead early in the first. The goal did not take the wind out of the Habs’ sails, however, as Montreal continued to push back as the period wore on.
Finally, they found a breakthrough when Dvorak and Drouin worked their magic in the attack zone again. Drouin gave a pass to Chris Wideman who let go of his shot. It hit Murray’s blocker and Alex Belzile was on the spot to pocket the rebound into the open net and equalize the game.
The draw didn’t last long, however, as Artem Zub fired a wrist shot from the point towards Allen, and in front of the net Drake Batherson defeated David Savard as he managed to divert the puck by the veteran goalkeeper to put Ottawa back on top.
The first period took an ugly turn when Josh Norris slammed Niku into the numbers as the Canadiens defender was turned to move the puck along the boards. Niku rose slowly, his visor covered in blood, although Norris received no punishment whatsoever. Batherson was given two minutes for roughness in the scrum that followed, but the Canadiens were unable to generate a single shot to their man advantage.
Ottawa pulled the next power play to end the period when Michael Pezzetta was called up for tripping. The Habs held out strong to end the first period, but had just over a minute of penalty kicks left to start the second period.
The Montreal penalty killers were on hand to kill Pezzetta’s remaining penalty. Unfortunately, the Senators took advantage of their inability to clear the zone as the fourth line grabbed the next draw. Shane Pinto swiped a foul pass and set up Nick Paul, who fired a shot past Allen to double Ottawa’s lead.
That lead continued to grow as the period wore on, as an ill-timed sniff from Savard turned into another strange rush, leaving Batherson alone on Allen. Sens’s attacker uncorked a bad shot and Ottawa’s lead was extended to three goals.
A tripping call from Cole Reinhardt on Kaiden Guhle sent Montreal back into the power play, and this time they made sure to take advantage of that situation. A deft move in the power play allowed Drouin to slip a pass to Wideman, who again aimed high at Murray. It hit Dvorak from the front first, then the center man coolly shot the rebound into the back of the net while shaking off the sting he’d received from the shot.
Before the period was over, a few mental mistakes in the defensive zone resulted in a few more Ottawa goals, and the Canadiens found themselves in a very deep hole heading into the final period. They also stared at a very angry team of senators after Ottawa believed Michael Pezzetta was taking advantage of the smaller Parker Kelly in a fight in which Pezzetta dropped Kelly with just a few solid punches.
Rather than fight or go after someone in a white jersey, the Senators went off the ice, turned Savard around and scored a seventh goal to welcome Kevin Poulin into the game.
A power play by Canadiens yielded almost nothing in terms of generating attacks, as it was clear that the Canadiens and Senators were happy with the rest of the game clock.
Watson eventually tracked down Pezzetta as the match was clearly over from a competitive standpoint. Watson threw Pezzetta onto the ice, the young attacker clearly did not want to participate, and Watson took his place in the penalty area for two minutes. Again, the Canadiens’ man advantage passed the puck well, but there were no more goals to be found in this game as the Senators stuck out the final minutes to get away with an easy 7-2 win.
The Senators also claimed the post-game shootout win, with Tyler Ennis taking in the winner, while Ryan Poehling was denied by Murray to end a frustrating evening.
The Canadiens will have an immediate rematch in Montreal tonight as they welcome the senators to the Bell Center. We are expected to see more of the team that opened the preseason against Toronto, plus Ryan Poehling who was told he will play both games this weekend.