Canadiens vs. Senators Rookie Showcase recap: Rough sailing for the Habs rookies

Hockey is back folks!

After a long summer, hockey finally returned to Montreal in the form of the annual pre-season tournament with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators. Friday evening saw the Canadiens prospects squaring off with their Ottawa counterparts. While a few bigger names were held out of this game, including Cale Fleury and Michael McNiven, all eyes were on 2018 third overall pick Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who was making his debut in a Montreal sweater.

Starting in net for Montreal’s prospects was tryout Samuel Harvey, while another tryout in Stephen Dhillon was set to play the second half of the game. The Senators came in with their best possible lineup it seemed, with Drake Batherson, Alex Formenton, Colin White, Logan Brown and Brady Tkachuk suiting up. Between the pipes was Filip Gustavsson for Ottawa, as the Swedish netminder looked to begin his first full year in North America.

After a summer away from competitive hockey, the pace to start the game was not a quick one, with very few chances exchanged in either direction. Ottawa piled on a few chances just past the halfway point of the period, leading in shots 7-4 before Kotkaniemi drew a penalty to send Montreal to a power play.

The wheels fell off shortly thereafter, with T.J. Melancon having his shot blocked, and the speedy Formenton heading the other way on a short-handed breakaway. Cole Fonstad gave a valiant effort to try to get back in the play, but Formenton beat Harvey for the short-handed tally. Melancon proceeded to take a penalty after the goal to cancel the man advantage for Montreal.

A puck off the crossbar was the last bit of action in the opening 20 minutes, and the Senators headed to the locker room with their one-goal lead, and Montreal needing a bit of push back in the second.

That pushback would not happen as planned to start the period, as Kotkaniemi laid the body on Tkachuk, but the Sens’ first-rounder spun away with the puck and coolly finished past Harvey to double the Senators’ lead.

Kotkaniemi drew another penalty, but the Canadiens were unable to capitalize on their man advantage despite their four-forward unit generating some decent looks. Not long after the power play came to an end, the Senators gained the Montreal zone with speed, and the puck made its way to Christian Jaros on the point, and he buried it behind Harvey for a three-goal lead.

Dhillon took over for Harvey in the pre-planned changed just as the halfway point was reached. He would be tested immediately, as Luka Burzan missed a wide-open net after being left wide open by the Canadiens’ defence. Following that, Jake Evans had the best chance for the Canadiens to that point, but fired his shot wide of net, and left Montreal searching for a goal.

Kotkaniemi’s rough night at the expense of Tkachuk continued. While Allan McShane sat in the box for a penalty, Kotkaniemi was whistled for another infraction. Down to a 5-on-3 situation, it was Tkachuk again who easily cashed in on the doorstep to pile on another goal for Ottawa. That would be how the second frame ended as well, with the Canadiens trailing badly on both the scoreboard and the shot clock.

An early penalty to David Sklenička started the Canadiens’ third period off on the wrong foot. Already trailing in shots by a 25-9 margin, the Habs prospects would be forced into another odd-man situation.

A stout penalty kill saw the Canadiens keep the deficit at four goals and finally begin to find some of their offensive game. A chance low in the offensive zone by Cam Hillis was the most dangerous push by Montreal to this point.

A horrible incident followed a scoreless power play for the Canadiens. Evans was chasing the puck into the zone when a high hit from a Senators player sent Evans to the ice, where his head landed first and he lay motionless. The medical staff quickly attended to the rookie forward, and carefully prepared him to be stretchered off.

The air was sucked out of the building after that, and the Canadiens still struggled to find their legs against Ottawa. Michael Pezzetta went crashing into Gustavsson attempting to find a goal any way he could, but to no avail. The Senators continued to pile on the shots, and Montreal never truly threatened again, leaving the final score at 4-0.

The Habs prospects will be back in action Sunday afternoon against the Toronto Maple Leafs at 3: 00 PM Eastern. Toronto will meet with Ottawa tomorrow afternoon at Place Bell as well.

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