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Canadiens vs. Senators game recap: Montreal’s top line rolls in a hard-fought victory

It was a great return to action for Brendan Gallagher as he led the Habs to a solid win at home.

NHL: OCT 02 Preseason - Senators at Canadiens Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Less than 24 hours after the Ottawa Senators thumped the Montreal Canadiens 7-2 in the nation’s capital, the two sides met again, this time at the Bell Centre in Montreal. The lineup was very different than the one that was crushed on Friday night. Notably, it featured the return of Brendan Gallagher, in Cole Caufield’s spot, alongside Nick Suzuki.

It also saw Ryan Poehling slide into the second-line centre role, flanked by Artturi Lehkonen and Jesse Ylönen, while Mathieu Perreault centred the third line alongside Laurent Dauphin and Gabriel Bourque. In net Cayden Primeau was given the full 60 minutes for the Habs, while Michael McNiven backed him up.

The game started with a continuation of the physicality that popped up at moments the previous night. Scott Sabourin grabbed Brandon Baddock as he was skating away and began throwing punches, earning an extra two minutes in the box while the Canadiens’ power play went to work.

The man advantage moved the puck well, forcing the Senators’ penalty-killers to scramble constantly, but their shots on net were swallowed up by Anton Forsberg. Once the play returned to even strength, the Canadiens drew another penalty as Laurent Dauphin caught the Ottawa defence flat-footed as he circled the net.

The second Montreal power play was not as pretty as the first as the Senators generated the best chances on short-handed rushes, but Primeau was equal to the task as Ottawa got their second kill of the period. Then, because that’s how the game had gone up to that point, Montreal then headed to their first penalty kill of the night after they were called for cross-checking.

Much like their counterparts, the Canadiens’ penalty-killers were steadfast in the defensive zone, clearing out any rebounds and stifling the Senators’ man advantage to keep the game goalless.

That latter part did not last much longer however, as the Senators cycled around the Habs zone, eventually with Erik Brannstrom lining up to shoot. The young defender’s shot looked like it was heading right for the pileup in front of Primeau, but a deft tip by Tim Stützle lifted it past the screened Primeau and put the Habs down by a goal late in the first.

The penalty parade continued, this time with Arber Xhekaj sitting for a cross-checking penalty. The Montreal penalty kill remained as strong as its first showing, not allowing the Senators any space to operate, and the entire kill was capped off with Alexander Romanov catching Ridly Greig with his head down, hammering him as he tried to enter the Habs’ zone with the puck.

The period ended with the Senators still sitting on their one-goal lead, but with plenty of the game left to play.

It looked like Montreal had opened the scoring in the second period as Jeff Petry pulled off a wraparound, but his shot stayed directly along the goal line, and despite the official signalling that it was a good goal, the puck never crossed the line.

The Canadiens were doing well to control the flow of play as the period wore on, but they were not able to find a tying goal against Forsberg. An odd-man rush for the Sens drew a hooking call as Petry got his stick around Connor Brown’s wrists to break up the play.

Montreal’s penalty kill remained perfect on the night, even with their leading penalty-killer sitting in the box, and the game returned to even strength with the Habs still looking for their first goal of the night. It wasn’t for a lack of trying though, as Petry sent J.-C. Beaudin in alone on net, but the AHL forward failed to solve Forsberg as well.

The Canadiens soon found themselves back on the power play as Tyler Toffoli drew an interference call as he flew into the Ottawa zone. The second unit started the power play, and with Jesse Ylönen acting as the trigger man the Habs mounted a massive attack against the Ottawa penalty-killers. Forsberg remained unbeaten as he robbed Ylönen on what looked like an empty net, but the Habs got a bit of good luck when the next unit took the ice. Josh Brown went to clear the puck, but had his stick crumble in his hands. The puck trickled right to Gallagher, who wasted no time roofing the errant pass by Forsberg to finally get Montreal on the board.

A late Senators power play was again shut down by the Canadiens’ penalty-killers and the teams headed into the final period tied at one goal apiece.

It was another fast start for the Canadiens in the third period as the top line went to work, and found a goal in just 21 seconds. Toffoli worked behind the net and threw a pass out front where Gallagher fanned on the chance, but Suzuki calmly walked in behind him and wired the shot by Filip Gustavsson to put Montreal on top.

With the lead in their grasp, the Habs were content to play safe hockey, slowly pushing the Senators back out of the attacking areas, and getting the puck in deep when that space was given to them. Montreal nearly added a goal a handful of times on a late power play, but Poehling was inches off on his chances at the side of the net.

In the end it didn’t matter much as the Canadiens saw out the end of the game, even with Ottawa pulling their goalie, to secure the win at home in front of 7,500 fans at the Bell Centre.

Montreal has a few days off now to sift through their next round of cuts and do more theoretical work before a third game with the Toronto Maple Leafs in Toronto on Tuesday night.