After a convicing win over the Pittsburgh Penguins to start the 2016 Rookie Tournament, and a comeback versus the Toronto Maple Leafs that was undone in the dying moments, on Sunday, the Montreal Canadiens prospects took on their counterparts in the Ottawa Senators organization.
The first game — an 8-3 drubbing of the Pens — was all about the skill of top prospects in the organization. Coming back from 3-1 down to the Maple Leafs, their contest versus what is regarded as the best prospect pool in the NHL showed their character and determination.
In their afternoon match versus the Senators, it appeared that their physicality was the trait on display, starting off with a thunderous hip check.
Mikhail Sergachev gave everyone a glimpse of his play on the other side of the puck minutes later, taking the puck the length of the ice, blowing by the coverage of the Sens rookies before setting up Daniel Audette for the first goal of the game.
The lead didn’t last long, however, as Francis Perron tied things up for Ottawa soon afterward.
The phyiscal theme was continued toward the end of the period when defenceman Noah Juulsen got in on the hard-hitting action. After mishandling the puck, he made his forechecker pay for daring to take possession.
Sergachev made a good play to thwart a two-on-one early the second, but got caught for clipping his check with a high stick when he attempted to take the play the other way. With the Russian draftee in the penalty box, Nick Paul gave the Sens a lead just a few seconds into the man advantage.
The lead didn’t last long, as the Canadiens got a power play immediately afterward, and the top players went to work. Sergachev got a chance to get right back into the action, and found Audette once again; the second goal of the game for the former star of the QMJHL’s Sherbrooke Phoenix.
Unfortunately, Sergachev returned to the penalty box for two minutes for boarding soon afterward, and Filip Chlapik put the Sens ahead 3-2 with the Canadiens’ top prospect out of commission.
Vincent Dunn decided to avenge his teammate the next time Sergachev was on the ice, running him into the boards from behind, taking a boarding penalty and sending Sergachev to the dressing room for repairs.
Here's Dunn's hit on Sergachev. Not even remotely close to the play. pic.twitter.com/ZitpRHATEB— Mitch Brown (@MitchLBrown) September 18, 2016
The Canadiens put on a lot of pressure in an attempt to equalize, just missing on several golden opportunites to tie things at three apiece. The Senators launched a counter attack after the flurry, and Thomas Chabot set up Perron for his second of the game and a two-goal lead.
Near the end of the period, Matthew Bradley reduced the deficit to a single goal. Jeremiah Addison went forward on the offensive-zone faceoff, and got the puck across to Bradley, who had a gaping net to beat the Senators’ 28-year-old goalie, Bryan Pitton.
Jeremiah Addison with a creative faceoff win and sets up Matt Bradley for a tap-in. 4-3 Sens. pic.twitter.com/jyLN6URFRk— Mitch Brown (@MitchLBrown) September 18, 2016
Just before the third period began, it was announced that Sergachev was done for the night with an upper-body injury. The fact that he wasn’t just held out for “precautionary reasons“ in a game that is ultimately meaningless is a bit of a concern with Canadiens’ training camp — where many are hoping to see how Sergachev fares among NHL players — just days away.
Shortly after the action resumed, a defensive-zone lapse was compounded when Simon Bourque was blasted into his own net by Sens’ 2016 first-round selection Logan Brown, leaving Paul lots of space to score his second of the game and restore Ottawa’s two-goal lead.
That became a three-goal lead just before the midway mark of the period when Gabriel Gagne beat Michael McNiven to make it 6-3, despite Montreal holding the edge in shots.
Addison got back to the physical theme in the late going, landing two big hits in the offensive zone in a last-ditch effort to leave his mark on the final contest.
Jeremiah Addison lowering the boom as the Sens run away with the score. pic.twitter.com/KtnzDW2YCF— Mitch Brown (@MitchLBrown) September 18, 2016
With the game out of reach, and not having been able to contribute much in his third game in less than three days, Nikita Scherbak took out his frustrations in an unexpected fight.
Michael Pezzetta decided to get payback on Dunn for his earlier hit on Sergachev, getting a little more force behind his punches than Scherbak was able to just moments before.
In the end, the Canadiens weren’t able score any more goals, and suffered a 6-3 loss.
With the loss, the 2016 Rookie Tournament concludes for the Montreal Canadiens, who had one victory over the Penguins and close losses in their final two games versus the Leafs and Senators. Now it’s a matter of discussing how the Canadiens will proceed with the players signed to tryout contracts for the tournament, and deciding which prospects to invite to the main training camp.
Many thanks to Mitch Brown for creating highlight videos throughout the tournament.