The Montreal Canadiens’ pre-season campaign continued to roll on as they kicked off a back-to-back series, this time against the Ottawa Senators. The roster heading to Canada’s capital was largely the same as the one that throttled the Toronto Maple Leafs in the last game. It did, however, feature another debut for the Habs as Sami Niku suited up for his Montreal debut after signing late last week upon having his contract mutually terminated in Winnipeg.
The Habs jumped out to a solid start, with the duo of Rafaël Harvey-Pinard and Jake Evans finding a rhythm early on. Harvey-Pinard found the open space in Ottawa’s zone, and filtered a perfect pass to Evans who fired it five hole, but was denied by Matt Murray’s pads.
Then it was Niku’s turn to try to generate some pressure deep in the Ottawa zone, and he did that while centring a feed for Christian Dvorak. However, Niku was caught deep and Jonathan Drouin was late on his rotation to cover his spot allowing Ottawa to spring an odd-man rush.
While Ben Chiarot perfectly eliminated the passing target, Austin Watson fired a shot that snuck through a sliding Jake Allen to put Ottawa on top early in the first. The goal didn’t take the wind out of the Habs’ sails though, as Montreal continued to push back as the period wore on.
Eventually they found a breakthrough as Dvorak and Drouin worked their magic in the offensive zone once more. Drouin fed a pass to Chris Wideman who let his shot go. It hit Murray’s blocker and Alex Belzile was in the spot to pot the rebound into the open net and tie the game.
Alex Belzile buries the rebound off a Chris Wideman shot and we are tied in Ottawa! pic.twitter.com/cegb7Uh6Dk— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) October 1, 2021
The tie did not last for long though, as Artem Zub fired a wristshot from the point toward Allen, and in front of the net Drake Batherson outmuscled David Savard while managing to redirect the puck by the veteran goalie to put Ottawa back on top.
The first period took an ugly turn as Josh Norris hammered Niku in the numbers as the Canadiens defender was turned to move the puck along the boards. Niku got up slowly, with his visor splattered with blood, though Norris wasn’t assessed a penalty of any kind. Batherson was given two minutes for roughing in the scrum that followed, but the Canadiens weren’t able to generate a single shot on their man advantage.
Ottawa drew the next power play to end the period as Michael Pezzetta was called for tripping. The Habs held strong to end the first, but had just over a minute of penalty-killing left to start the second period.
The Montreal penalty killers stood tall to kill off Pezzetta’s remaining sentence. Unfortunately, with the fourth line taking the next draw, the Senators took advantage of their inability to clear the zone. Shane Pinto swiped an errant pass and set up Nick Paul, who fired a shot right past Allen to double Ottawa’s lead.
That edge continued to grow as the period wore on, as an ill-timed pinch by Savard turned into another odd-man rush, and Batherson was in alone on Allen. The Sens forward uncorked a wicked shot, and the Ottawa lead was pushed to three goals.
A tripping call by Cole Reinhardt on Kaiden Guhle sent Montreal back to the power play, and this time they made sure to take advantage of that situation. Some deft movement on the power play allowed Drouin to slip a pass to Wideman, who once again aimed high on Murray. It ended up hitting Dvorak in front first, and then the centreman coolly fired the rebound into the back of the net as he shook of the stinger he had gotten from the shot.
Christian Dvorak takes the shot off the hand, then calmly scores before checking out the damage pic.twitter.com/ren5WnvNKX— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) October 2, 2021
Before the period was over, a pair of mental lapses in the defensive zone resulted in another pair of Ottawa goals, and the Canadiens found themselves in a very deep hole heading into the final period. They also found themselves staring down a very angry Senators team after Ottawa believed Michael Pezzetta took advantage of the smaller Parker Kelly in a fight during which Pezzetta dropped Kelly with just a few stiff punches.
Instead of fighting or going after anyone in a white sweater, the Senators went down the ice, turning Savard around, and scored a seventh goal to welcome Kevin Poulin to the game.
A Canadiens power play yielded next to nothing in terms of offence-generation as it was clear the Canadiens and Senators were content to just run the remainder of the game clock out.
Watson finally tracked down Pezzetta as the game was clearly over from a competitive standpoint. Watson threw Pezzetta to the ice, with the young forward clearly not wishing to engage, and Watson took a seat in the box for two minutes. Again, the Canadiens’ man advantage passed the puck around well, but there were no more goals to be found in this game as the Senators coasted for the final minutes to come away with an easy 7-2 victory.
The Senators also claimed the post-game shootout victory, with Tyler Ennis netting the winner while Ryan Poehling was denied by Murray to cap off a frustrating night.
The Canadiens get an immediate do-over tonight in Montreal when they welcome the Senators to the Bell Centre. It’s expected that we’ll see more of the team that opened the pre-season against Toronto, plus Ryan Poehling who was informed he will be playing both games this weekend.