On the strength of a lineup that looked an awful lot like one we could see on opening night come October, the Habs marched into Quebec City in search of their second win of the pre-season. Facing an opponent with a notably weaker squad in the Penguins, the Canadiens emerged from the Centre Videotron having found it.
It looked good from the very start as David Desharnais received a stretch pass from Andrei Markov and danced in for a scoring chance mere seconds into the game. The Canadiens would build on that opening drive with solid pressure throughout much of the period as they controlled the flow of play, with Carey Price facing his first shot nearly nine minutes into the contest.
The Habs would capitalize on their early dominance thanks to a hard wrister from Alexander Semin after a nifty drop pass by Alex Galchenyuk, and with some help from Penguins defender Kris Letang who batted the puck into his own net.
The Penguins would answer shortly thereafter, managing to find the back of the net on the power play. A centering pass from Beau Bennett found it's way into the slot, and right onto the stick of Dale Weise. Despite better intentions, Weise propelled the puck past Price as the game became tied at 1.
The Habs had an extended man advantage to open the second period, and wasted little time getting to work. Markov found Lars Eller open by the side of the net and threw a pass to his stick, leading to an easy finish for the Dane, and restoring the lead. The remainder of the period would be a back-and-forth affair, and while the Canadiens continued to overwhelm the Penguins offensively, there were some obvious struggles at times when it came to exiting their own zone.
Nevertheless, the Habs took their 2-1 lead into the third, and would only build on it from there. Markov was able to slap a puck on goal after receiving a great pass from P.K. Subban, and found it deflected into the net by Brian Flynn to give the club some insurance. The score would remain the same until the dying moments, when Tomas Fleischmann found Weise cross-ice, the latter burying the empty net goal to seal the victory. The win marked the Habs second straight.
There was little doubt when it came to naming the first star of the game, as Galchenyuk must have been a unanimous choice. The 21-year-old has been making waves since the beginning of camp, and proved his prowess at centre-ice against the Penguins.
Alex Galchenyuk has 5 controlled entries tonight, no other #Habs player has more than 2 (Fleischmann).— Sportlogiq (@Sportlogiq) September 29, 2015
It was indeed a dominant performance, as Galchenyuk routinely made something happen from shift to shift. Aside from his big helper on the opening goal of the game, Galchenyuk played a part in setting up the offense all night with some excellent puck movement. He also proved a responsible player on the other end of the rink, with a notable back-check in the first period resulting in a neutral zone interception. If there was any doubt surrounding Galchenyuk's ability to play centre, his recent performances and this one especially, should have erased it.
The other members of Galchenyuk's line certainly deserve praise for their performance as well, as Eller and Semin played important roles in the victory. With a goal each, the performance of this trio is making Michel Therrien look like a genius. Both Semin and Eller looked good all over the ice, each having some strong plays defensively in addition to the offensive pressure provided throughout the game.
Charles Hudon was another player who impressed against the Penguins, as has been the story with him since rookie camp. Regularly mentioned as the one guy who might be able to push a forward out of the lineup, it was easy to see why on Monday night. The Quebec native just seems to be in the right place every time, and his strong play along the boards did not look like that of a rookie. It will be interesting to see what happens with Hudon as camp winds down, though the smart money may be on a return to St. John's rather than having him see limited minutes on the fourth line.
Still playing on a professional tryout contract, Fleischmann was on display once again on Monday night. Not only registering an assist on Weise's empty-net goal, "Flash" was heavily involved with his line as has been the case since joining the team. It's undeniable that Fleischmann brings quite a package to the team for a player on a tryout, and many believe it is only a matter of "when," not "if," the Czech will be signed.
The Habs' defense had some difficulty getting the puck out of their zone effectively at times, which has become somewhat a regular occurrence in the past few seasons. Still, players like Subban were able to show off their penchant for puck moving - and in Subban's case, in spectacular fashion. A number of shimmies and shakes were made by the former Norris winner to create space, and it certainly looked as though he's ready for the regular season to begin.
The pre-season is not over just yet, however, as the Canadiens will take to the ice twice more before the real thing. The club's next game will take place at the Bell Centre on Thursday as the Habs welcome the Ottawa Senators. Puck drop for that game is 7:30 PM ET.