As the final buzzer signalled the end of the game, it also signalled the end of the preseason for the Montreal Canadiens. Coming off a strong effort that yielded an unfortunate result on Thursday night, one would have to think that a little more of the same effort would be enough to get a win this time around. While they did manage to put forth a similar effort, it still earned them a similarly unfortunate result.
An early power play allowed the Habs to take a 7-0 lead in the shot department, and things were certainly looking good. However, the very first shot by the Ottawa Senators, taken by Chris Neil of all people, would beat Dustin Tokarski. Early on, much like the game of two nights prior, the Canadiens held the edge in play, but it was the Sens with the edge on the scoreboard.
A second Habs power play provided an opportunity to get things going. Erik Karlsson was a little busy knocking Tomas Fleischmann stick away as he gained the zone, but the puck would find its way over to the boards and onto the stick of Dale Weise. Weise simply turned and fired, and was able to beat Matt O'Connor to even the score at one apiece.
A mere 19 seconds after the Weise goal, Mark Stone found Mike Hoffman in the slot, and the latter reclaimed Ottawa's lead on only their third shot of the game. Then, after the Habs killed a Tomas Fleischmann penalty, Mark Stone broke in and fed Kyle Turris in the low slot, but Tokarski made a solid save to keep it out. As if Tokarski's luck could get any worse, the puck found it's way back to the point and the stick of Chris Wideman, who hammered it home to make it three goals on six shots for Ottawa.
Nearly midway through the second, Chris Neil took a holding penalty, and it didn't take long for the Montreal power play to make it count. Alex Galchenyuk worked a nice give-and-go with Nathan Beaulieu near the point, then he walked it down from the point himself and fired a bullet of a wrister to bring the Habs within a goal.
Brendan Gallagher, in true Brendan-Gallagher fashion, would even the score less than five minutes later as he redirected a Nathan Beaulieu point shot inches from the crease of Matt O'Connor. Finally, the shot differential built up by the Canadiens had begun to pay off on the scoreboard.
But the lead was short lived, as a late second-period penalty for Dale Weise opened a door for the Sens yet again. Mark Stone gained the zone, cut towards the middle and beat Dustin Tokarski with a wrist shot that went in off the post. At the end of the second period, the Senators held a 4-3 lead despite being outshot 30-13.
Tokarski's night didn't get any better in the third. The Canadiens continued to control the play, but couldn't manage to beat Matt O'Connor to tie the game. With just over five minutes to play in the third, Cody Ceci got the puck near the point, fired one on net, and it found its way past Tokarski for the Sens fifth goal on only 15 shots.
Tokarski was pulled for the extra man with over two minutes to go in the third, and it would take a while, but the move paid off as Max Pacioretty managed to score on a long wrister from the point to pull his team back within one. That would be as close as they would get, as Ottawa was able to ride out the rest of regulation to go to the three-on-three exhibition with the win in hand.
While one could expect the Senators to luck their way into the experimental overtime goal as well, it was simply not meant to be. Tom Gilbert went into beast mode, and got the first three-on-three overtime goal of the preseason for the Canadiens with a ridiculous solo effort.
- To say it was a rough night for Tokarski is an understatement, and it would be pretty tough to sugar-coat it. He did make a few good stops, including a highlight-reel glove save against Kyle Turris in the third, but overall he was very shaky and looked uncomfortable. There were a number of occasions where he was sliding across the crease, seemingly lost, as he tried to track down the puck. As our own Liam McKenna wrote yesterday, his job as the team's backup could very well be in danger.
- After the unending power play struggles of last year, it was very nice to see the team manage to score on 50% of their opportunities. Of course, this was just an exhibition, but they looked very dangerous with the man-advantage, and that was something they sorely lacked last year.
- Alex Galchenyuk power play goal came on a ridiculous shot, set up by some excellent passing between he and Nathan Beaulieu. With every game that he skates in the middle, it becomes increasingly apparent that he is more than ready to be there permanently. While there may be some understandable disappointment from the fans over the preseason record, Galchenyuk's performance so far at centre should easily alleviate some of that.
- Notwithstanding that they were given rather favourable zone starts, the line of Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, and Brendan Gallagher was absolutely phenomenal. As a unit, they controlled around 60% of even strength shot attempts while they were on the ice, and it was abundantly clear why the coaching staff wants that line together this season.
Outshooting your opponent 37-15 will, on nearly every single occasion, result in a win. A bad night for Dustin Tokarski resulted in a loss, but that's about the only negative one could take from this game. It was a good team performance, there were things to be happy about, and overall you just have to look at that as a game they would win much more often than not.
And now, it's time for the real games to begin. The regular season will be upon us in four short days when the Canadiens take part in the Toronto Maple Leafs' home opener on Wednesday night.