You may have expected the final game of the pre-season to be a contest that the players just wanted to get through as quickly as possible. However, that’s not something the current relationship between the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators allows.
After a fairly standard tight-checking opening to the first period — something we saw in the previous game between these two clubs as well — the familiarity bred some contempt behind the Canadiens’ net. It was Ben Chiarot and Bobby Ryan who got involved, dropping the gloves at the midpoint of the opening frame for the game’s first penalties.
Half a minute later, Max Domi took exception to a trip by Scott Sabourin, and confronted him near the benches. The two threw punches as well, and it seemed the tone for the night was set.
An extra roughing minor to Sabourin sent the Canadiens on a dreaded power play, interrupting the physical play for the time being. It was a short-lived man advantage, however, as Phillip Danault tried to gain a further advantage by hanging on to a penalty-killer’s stick, making for some very crowded penalty boxes on both sides.
The special teams brought about the game’s first goal, but not in the way they were designed to contribute to offence. While short-handed late in the first, an initial odd-man rush went to Montreal as Paul Byron tried to hit Nick Suzuki on a two-on-one, but the pass was deflected. After jumping over the boards moments later, Phillip Danault picked up the puck in the neutral zone thanks to an Erik Brannstrom turnover, and this time he did all the work involved to get the goal.
The second period saw a good display of finesse from the last player you’d expect to apply that term to. Brendan Gallagher collected the puck after it was knocked loose by Danault. Gallagher tiptoed around a stick lying on the ice and then sent a pass right in front of the pad of netminder Anders Nilsson to the stick of Tomas Tatar for a 2-0 lead.
Ottawa attempted to cut the deficit in half, but with Ben Chiarot tying up Vitaly Abramov’s hands, the Sens player only had his legs to propel the puck into the net. After the group of pensioners running the in-game technology figured out how to turn the officials’ tablet on, the goal was reviewed, and then quickly disallowed.
The services of the off-ice officials weren’t needed the next time Carey Price was beaten. Bobby Ryan wasn’t tied up at all beside the crease, and picked up a puck sitting behind the Canadiens’ goaltender for the visitors’ first legal goal.
Less than two minutes later, the lead was erased completely by the Senators’ short-handed goal in the game. Max Domi attempted to protect the puck as he carried it along the blue line on the power play, but had it poked away. Anthony Duclair had plenty of runway to get in on Price, and scored the tying goal.
The third period saw a few more power plays, but neither team could find the opening for a prime short-handed chance, and so the game remained tied.
Just as it seemed the game was getting set for overtime, an ill-advised pass from Price while well out of his net went right to Filip Chlapik, and the forward sent the puck behind Price’s desperate sprint back to the crease to put Ottawa up 3-2.
Price made a beeline to the bench shortly after the play had resumed and Montreal was into the Sens’ end. A scrum along the side boards was won by four of the six Canadiens skaters now on the ice, and the puck was sent back to the point. Jeff Petry fired a shot toward the net that was deflected by Gallagher, and the winger became the third and final member of the Habs’ top line to score a goal in regulation, sending the game to overtime.
The start of the three-on-three period was a slow one. The Canadiens held the most possession, but unfortunately were doing so quite literally, with the puck held just inside the Senators’ blue line and no real attempts to get to the net. Two tries at advancing the puck went for icing, bringing the NHL’s most entertaining situation to a standstill.
With Montreall seemingly uninterested in making something happen, the Senators decided to give it a try. Duclair broke in Price for the second time in the game, but the goalie was no longer in a generous mood, and turned the shot aside with his arm.
As the clock ticked down to a minute, Suzuki felt it was time to bring proceedings to a close. He raced into the Senators’ end and got to the puck at the same time as a coasting opponent. He won that battle and took the puck behind the goal, swung out in front, and sent a shot to the far post for the winning goal.
- He probably didn’t need it, but the OT goal was one more positive in a long list for Suzuki from his training camp performance. He has earned a spot on the NHL roster, and he may be playing in every situation right from the outset.
- Cale Fleury didn’t have the standout moments in the pre-season, but he did look much more steady than the defencemen he was battling with, and clearly has the potential for even more. For him to make the team, someone else needs to be placed on waivers, but I think Marc Bergevin may take that risk given how solid the rookie has looked, and the fact there are some other players with NHL experience already in Laval who could replace either Christian Folin or (especially) Mikey Reilly if they did get claimed.
- Ryan Poehling’s situation may be a bit different. Using the same test of whether you’d place a forward on waivers in order to keep him around, I’m not sure the answer would be as easy in Poehling’s case. He’s looked good enough to play in the league, but the concussion limited his ability to make impressions and placed him on the back foot for the latter half of the pre-season. Should he be assigned to the AHL, he would only be there until the first injury necessitated a recall, but there could a brief period of time in the minors on the horizon.
We will have those answers soon enough, as the roster needs to be finalized by Wednesday afternoon ahead of the Canadiens’ season-opener on Thursday night.