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Canadiens vs. Capitals game recap: Habs get offence from unexpected sources to win in Quebec City

Goals from five different players steered the Habs to their second win of the pre-season.

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Montreal Canadiens Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

After a feisty affair in Montreal the night before, the Canadiens rolled into Quebec City to face the Washington Capitals. For the second night in a row they would face anything but an easy lineup, as the Caps’ Stanley Cup-winning top line suited up for the game.

Lukas Vejdemo and tryout Joel Ward were among those making their debuts on the night for the Canadiens. Vejdemo is trying to possibly claim the fourth-line centre role, and Ward is trying to earn a new deal in any sort of role.

While it took them time in their first two pre-season games to find their legs, Thursday’s game was a Montreal onslaught from the outset. Brendan Gallagher opened the scoring when Phillip Danault grabbed a lazy pass by Brooks Orpik and found the winger all alone in front of the net. Gallagher made no mistake on the play as he roofed his shot past Pheonix Copley for a 1-0 lead.

Montreal kept their foot down after their opening goal, with the aforementioned Ward playing a huge role in the next goal. Michael Chaput jumped on a clearing attempt from the Capitals and chipped it into the zone for Ward, and the veteran winger fed the puck right back to Chaput, who finished with ease past Copley for a two-goal lead.

The relentless pressure didn’t let up then either. At one point, Montreal held a 12-0 shot advantage over the Capitals who looked like they were feeling the after-effects of their summer of celebrating. In fact, their first shot on Lindgren drew a rousing Bronx cheer from the fans in attendance.

With under a minute left, the Habs struck once more. This time it was the fourth line doing the damage. Some smart interplay between Vejdemo and Alexandre Alain allowed the puck to end up on Jacob de la Rose’s stick. The Swedish forward found his spot, and picked the far side of the net.

Even with a 3-0 lead, Montreal piled on another goal shortly into the second period, this time on the power play thanks to the indiscipline of Tom Wilson. After a short-handed rush brought the puck into the Canadiens zone, Tomas Tatar threaded a perfect stretch pass to Brendan Gallagher. From there, the sparkplug picked out a streaking Artturi Lehkonen, who redirected a perfect pass into the net to run the score to 4-0 less than three minutes into the second period.

The sputtering Capitals finally kicked into gear a bit with a power play of their own, and like Mike Johnson said on the broadcast, “Death, taxes, and an Ovechkin one-timer from the dot.” The NHL’s premier sniper got a pass right in his wheelhouse and blasted it through Charlie Lindgren, who had covered the shot well.

There was pushback once again from the Canadiens, as Lindgren made a pass to Lehkonen, who in turn dropped it off for Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and the first-round pick nearly created a fifth goal for Montreal. Some heavy (uncalled) stickwork from Michal Kempny denied the chance.

It was Montreal who got sent to the penalty kill shortly afterward, but despite killing off 95% of the penalty, a group of tired defenders was caught out on the ice, and Connor Hobbs walked in from the point and wired the puck by Lindgren to reduce the Canadiens’ lead to two.

A bit of a kerfuffle broke out to end the second period with Wilson throwing a cross-check on Rinat Valiev and then challenging him to a fight. For Valiev’s own well-being, he was talked down by Ward and the refs, in what would have been a mismatch. The Canadiens did earn a power play out of all the nonsense, and it carried over to start the final period.

Their early power play, and second one in the opening seven minutes, both failed to bear any more goals as the Canadiens looked to put a nail in the Capitals’ coffin in the pre-season contest. Valiev would get the last laugh after the whole ordeal with Wilson as he took a clean Phillip Danault faceoff win at the point, and fired a harmless wrist shot on Vitek Vanecek that found the back of the net.

Both teams exchanged power plays in the final 10 minutes, but neither side could find another goal on their man advantage, leaving the score at 5-2 as the clock wound down.

That ended up being the final score as the horn sounced, pushing the Canadiens record in the preseason to 2-1-0, Montreal will be back in action Saturday night at home against the Ottawa Senators.

Thoughts

  • It’s the player we least expect it from, but Michael Chaput, much like Matthew Peca, has made a strong push for an NHL roster spot with his play so far. He’s not going to be a superstar, but he’s making a strong case to be an everyday fourth-line kind of player.
  • Joel Ward is here only on a tryout, but he drew penalties, set up a goal, and had some decent chances of his own. I still don’t know if there’s room for him on this team, but he’s doing the right things to make room for himself on an NHL roster.
  • After a disappointing game last night, the Habs came out and put their foot down in this game, and didn’t let up in the slightest. It’s pre-season, yes, but that sort of instinct is great to see from this club.