When you lose 5-2 to a very young version of your newest and hottest rivals, it's easy to panic. Especially when you lose with what is essentially your opening night line up in front of your premier goalie, and the shots are a goofy 42-21 in your favour. However, mixed in with all the bad, most of it concerningly old, was some good stuff.
The game got off to an auspicious start, with the fourth line sustaining pressure in the offensive zone, before giving up the ice to a red hot SEGa line of Alex Semin, Lars Eller, and centreman Alex Galchenyuk, who hit the board within seconds on a sneaky Andrei Markov backhand goal barely a minute into the game.
For a team that is usually terrible in transition, both the defencemen and the SEGa line moved the puck through the zones fairly well, though it also helped that the team as a whole spent very little time at all in their own end, and that most of the transitions were managed by Markov, Subban, and the aforementioned trio.
Just shy of the halfway mark, Alexei Emelin — who looked rather solid in the opening moments — drew a penalty driving to the net. Max Pacioretty used that power play opportunity to announce his return to game action, sending a backdoor pass across to a charging Nathan Beaulieu, who made no mistake putting the puck in the net.
A defensive blunder on Emelin's part spoiled the Habs' offensive party, leading to a goal from Cody Ceci, and the mistakes piled up from there.
Zack Kassian took a bad penalty with 3:12 left in the period, though nothing came of the ensuing power play, thanks to some aggressive penalty killing from Eller, and the strong play of Carey Price. Chris Neil goaded Semin into matching penalties shortly thereafter, and the period ended 4-on-4 with the Habs having out-shot the Sens 15 to 8.
The second period began well, but never delivered on its promise. Despite a strong start, sustained offensive zone pressure, and a power play chance, it was the Sens who benefitted from being down a man, as Mark Stone easily outraced Markov to get into position and finish a cross-crease passing play.
Then Price gave up an uncharacteristically bad goal to Mike Hoffman, and despite some excellent chances for SEGa, Sven Andrighetto and Devante Smith-Pelly, the Habs were unable to answer, going into the second intermission down 3-2, despite their visual and statistical dominance.
The third period was more of the same, the SEGa line creating chances, and shots seemingly at will every time they were on the ice. All four lines had good shifts, and though Kassian took another unnecessary penalty, he once again survived unscathed.
Charles Hudon set Andrighetto up for a great chance, but shortly thereafter, Mitchell was caught with a retaliatory slash, and Clarke MacArthur finally made the Canadiens pay for their indiscipline, getting behind Emelin and scoring with the fourth-line centre in the box.
Despite the best efforts of Eller, Galchenyuk, Semin, Subban and Beaulieu (who made up a five-man unit for one shift late in the game) the Habs remained unable to answer. Patrick Wiercioch scored the final goal of the regulation contest, putting the Senators up 5-2 with a shot through a Curtis Lazar screen.
A 3-on-3 overtime that followed was no better, as Subban and Tomas Plekanec were caught on the ice for too long of a shift to start the exhibition frame, and Bobby Ryan showed no mercy.
Despite starting strongly in most of the games he's played, and looking pretty good in the offensive zone, Emelin inevitably finishes poorly, and tonight was no exception. both the Ceci and MacArthur goals were results of his poor play in the defensive zone.
The Habs have now scored twelve goals in six preseason games, and nearly all the tactical issues from the past three years have gone unaddressed.
Carey Price let in five goals on 21 shots. However, it's preseason, and it's not likely to happen frequently.
Devante Smith-Pelly, despite getting a few good chances late in the game, continued to be fairly invisible, which for a forward with a roster spot on the line, is not encouraging.
The Habs played what was probably their best preseason game last night, despite the lack of goals. All four lines were good at various times. Emelin's questionable decision-making and Markov's footspeed aside, the defence is mobile and excellent at moving the puck.
In his first game back, Captain Pacioretty looked like his usual self, showing his speed has not been affected by his knee injury when stripping the puck and sprinting past a couple of Sens players, teeing up Beaulieu's goal, and being on the starting group in overtime.
Hudon and Andrighetto continued to look good on a line with Brian Flynn.
We also got a brief glimpse of the potential future magic that could be a Beaulieu-Subban pairing.
Playing his first game of the preseason, and partnered with Emelin, Noah Juulsen looked surprisingly good, making a number of excellent, heads-up plays to keep the puck in the offensive zone, tallying two shots, and playing 13:32, all the while looking very comfortable.
And, of course, the SEGa line was very impressive once again, combining for a total of 10 shots, aided by making up the first wave of the power play. Eller led all forwards in ice time, cracking 20 minutes and playing in all situations, and the top trio was threatening every time it came over the boards. The skill that Galchenyuk and Eller constantly mention was very much on display in just about every area, and they should continue to be a thrilling line to watch, as they've yet to miss the scoreboard when deployed in a game situation.
For all that this game gave us reasons to despair, it also gave us plenty to look froward to.