The Montreal Canadiens’ pre-season tour rolled on into Monday night, with the team taking the ice for a contest for the third time in three days. They dropped their first pre-season affair to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night, 4-1. Then on Sunday the team put on its annual Red vs. White Scrimmage for the fans at the Bell Centre before last night’s rematch with Toronto.
Monday’s contest was big for a few reasons, seeing the NHL pre-season debuts of Mattias Norlinder and Kaiden Guhle, in addition to the Montreal debuts of Christian Dvorak and David Savard. It was also Jonathan Drouin’s first game since he stepped away from the club for mental health reasons last season. He was slotted to the left of Dvorak and Josh Anderson on the top line. Jake Allen got the start in net, backed up by longtime journeyman Kevin Poulin.
Montreal started like a rocket out of the gate, with Guhle threading a perfect feed through the neutral zone to Josh Anderson, who was just offside as he corralled the pass. Then it was Gabriel Bourque making his presence felt as he rocked Travis Dermott with a hit along the end boards.
Even as Toronto owned the opening shots battle, the Canadiens were the first to head to the power play when Brett Seney lost position and hauled down Bourque. The best chance of that Montreal power play fell to Toronto when an errant pass led to a David Kampf breakaway chance. Thankfully for Allen, Kampf ladeled his shot weakly over the net.
The Habs didn’t have to wait long for another chance on the advantage though, as Morgan Rielly took a seat for cross-checking Jan Myšák. The Habs took full advantage this time. Jonathan Drouin fired a pass through the neutral zone, with Christian Dvorak poking it along to a streaking Josh Anderson. The winger wired his shot by Jack Campbell to put the Habs on top in the first period.
Josh Anderson beats his man to the puck, and rifles it top shelf on Jack Campbell pic.twitter.com/IqLTKeOMuF— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) September 27, 2021
The Toronto march to the penalty box didn’t end there, and again Montreal’s top unit made them pay. On a play where all five players touched the puck, Joel Armia fed a pass across the zone to Jonathan Drouin, who then faked his shot before zipping it to Christian Dvorak standing all alone in front of the net, and the centreman doubled Montreal’s lead.
Oh man, the puck movement on Dvorak's power play goal.— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) September 27, 2021
*chefs kiss* pic.twitter.com/N10jR28XX6
However, before the period ended it was the Canadiens marching to the box with Jake Evans taking a pair of minors on the same play, while Nick Ritchie was able to coax a five-minute major out of Ben Chiarot who was very clearly not interested in having a fight. When all was said and done, Evans was in the box for four minutes and Ritchie escaped without an instigator added on, leaving Montreal to kill a four-minute power play to start the second period.
The penalty kill remained in peak form from its incredible run in the playoffs last season. In the 3:58 that remained on the Toronto power play, the Canadiens allowed zero shots on goal and flustered the attackers.
To add insult to injury, the young guns of the Habs tacked on another goal to push their lead to three. Jan Myšák collected a rebounded shot, and as he circled back to face the net he fired a low, hard shot that looked to be going wide. In front of the net, Michael Pezzetta angled his stick enough to direct that shot by Campbell and make it a three-goal cushion.
Jan Myšák with the shot and Michael Pezzetta gets the tip on it for a third Habs goal! pic.twitter.com/D2IkoGqj8e— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) September 28, 2021
That was also the end of the night for both starting goalies, as Campbell gave way to Petr Mrazek, and Allen ceded the net to Kevin Poulin.
The introduction to the game for Poulin was a bit of a rough one, as he immediately gave up a goal, but was saved by a coach’s challenge that ruled the play offside. However, he also ended up on the blooper reel as he misplayed a short-handed dump-in, hitting Kampf’s stick with his own and sending the puck into the net to put Toronto on the board.
Montreal took that personally, and restored their three-goal lead thanks to the work of Anderson. Wideman started the rush from the Habs’ zone, flicking a pass that Dvorak bumped off to Anderson. The big winger powered into the zone and blasted his shot right by Mrazek for his second goal of the night.
Josh Anderson is ripping absolute rockets tonight, he scores his second of the night on the power play. pic.twitter.com/Lvt8gUF5aP— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) September 28, 2021
The Leafs drew one back late in the period with Rielly feeding Ondrej Kase to beat the sliding Poulin, cutting the Habs’ lead back down to two goals heading into the third period.
Montreal was content to absorb the Leafs’ attack and counter when they were able to create the time and space. It led to moments like Myšák nutmegging Travis Dermott through the neutral zone so badly that Dermott wiped out trying to recover. The top line also found itself owning the zone with Anderson searching for his third goal of the night, but Mrazek and the Leafs kept him at bay.
Mrazek was called upon plenty after that as well, first to deny Pezzetta, who had worked himself behind Rielly and found himself all alone staring down the goaltender. Pezzetta aimed high, but the Toronto netminder fired his glove up to snag the puck. Then it was Anderson being sprung on a breakaway by Drouin, and again Mrazek came up with a massive glove save to deny the Habs a fifth goal.
With a handful of minutes left, the Leafs pulled their goalie to try to cut further into the Canadiens’ lead. However, Dvorak corralled the puck, and while he tried to feed Anderson for a hat-trick goal it ended up the stick of Pezzetta, and the truculent forward launched it in from distance to put the game out of reach with his second goal of the night.
Montreal now has a bit of a break before their next game, which is Friday night against the Ottawa Senators in Ottawa. The two teams will square off again on Saturday night in Montreal.