The Montreal Canadiens took to the ice for their second game in the first two nights of the 2017 Rookie Tournament. On Saturday night they faced an Ottawa Senators team with three players with NHL experience in the lineup and a handful of AHL guys. It was going to be tough.
The game immediately started off on the wrong foot for the Canadiens. Just 18 seconds in, the first shot that Canadiens starter Antoine Samuel faced was bumbled, fumbled, and jumbled by the nervous keeper until Jack Rodewald tapped it in for the first goal.
If there is any consolation for the Canadiens on this night it is that the top line of Jeremiah Addison, Daniel Audette, and Martin Réway looked a lot better than they did on Friday, with Audette's speed and Addison's net presence causing some pain for the Senators.
Réway showed the hand skills that make him an interesting prospect as well as an ability to slow down the play and control the flow. It came in small bursts. What was also evident with the returning Slovak was that his timing is still a bit off, as he missed a few body checks.
It was the top line that evened up the score four minutes into the game by creating a cycle in the Senators’ zone. Defender Victor Mete finished off the pressure with a slap shot from the point that deflected off a Senator's stick to beat starter Marcus Hogberg.
Things fell apart after that as the Senators retook the lead less than a minute later and never looked back. First Matteo Gennaro beat Samuel after Niki Petti’s line was caught in the defensive zone, then Gabriel Gagne gave the Sens a two-goal lead at the 10-minute mark. Gagne shot the puck harmlessly from the red line, and the puck found its way through Samuel who failed to squeeze his arm fast enough.
The Senators took a 3-1 lead into the first intermission, ahead in the shots tally 16-13.
The second period offered the Canadiens various chances to climb back into the game, with two consecutive power plays, but they were unable to mount any pressure.
As the penalties expired, Parker Kelly beat Samuel after a goal-mouth scramble. Then it was the Senators’ turn to go on a power play with Juulsen sent to the penalty box for boarding. The Senators capitalized immediately with a cross-ice one-timer that, despite being rather light, easily beat Samuel to give the Senators a 5-1 lead.
It was the end of Samuel’s rough night, perhaps partially accounted for by nerves getting the best of him. He ceded five goals on 28 shots before being replaced by Michael McNiven for the second half of the game.
McNiven entering the net galvanized the Habs somewhat. Some mixing of the lines also seemed to give the team a bit more of a spark. Antoine Waked was moved to the top line, and it immediately generated a scoring chance. It wasn’t enough to turn the momentum, and the Habs only registered nine shots in the second, despite three power plays.
As much of an improvement as McNiven was to Samuel, even he struggled to contain the overwhelming offence from the Senators. First Filip Chlapik beat him seven minutes into the third, then Jordan Topping capitalized on a rare sitckhandling error by McNiven less than a minute later.
Thomas Ebbing got one back for the Habs halfway through the third period, giving a momentary glimmer of excitement for the Canadiens fans in the stands, but the Senators turned up the aggression right afterwards to put an end to that.
Logan Brown decided it was a good time for a slow-motion clothesline on McNiven, removing the netminder’s mask and ending the play. The exhausted Canadiens responded with a half-hearted scrum. A few moments later Brown scored on McNiven with a beautiful snapshot to the top corner from close range.
On the next goal-crease incursion, McNiven gave a shot to a Senator with his stick, born of frustration of how easily the Senators were crowding him; much a much different experience than he had enjoyed from his defenders the previous night. The Habs tried to mix it up with the Senators’ netminder at the opposite end, which led to a fight for Waked.
The game was out of reach from an early point for the Canadiens, and the game ended in the Senators’ favour by the score of 8-2, and a shot advantage of 46-36.
No Canadiens player really stood on this night, save perhaps Will Bitten who continued to demonstrate explosive speed, generating a few breakaway scoring chances.
Alexandre Alain looked good from the tryout group, as did Maxime Fortier who had a few interesting opportunities. Jordan Boucher wasn't as present as he had been the night before.
Scott Walford, who was making his debut, replacing Jarret Tyszka and the injured Josh Brook on defence, looked pretty good, being physical on several occasions. The rest of the defensive squad struggled, notably Cale Fleury and Leblanc.
The Canadiens lost to the Senators at the rookie tournament for the third year in a row, and finish this year’s event with a 1-1 record.
The rookies now return to Montreal for the remainder of the rookie training camp which runs until mid-week. It's safe to say that when the main camp opens a few days later, many of these players will be with their junior teams or released from their tryouts.
0-1 Rodewald (Brown, Perron) 0:18
1-1 Mete (Waked, Juulsen) 4:39
1-2 Gennaro (Lajoie) 5:13
1-3 Gagne (Murray, Formenton) 10:03
1-4 Kelly (Chlapik, Lajoie) 8:03
1-5 Jaros (Perron, Chabot) 9:31 PP
1-6 Chlapik (Chabot, Batherson) 7:11
1-7 Topping (unassisted) 8:08
2-7 Ebbing (Fortier, Walford) 9:03
2-8 Brown ... sorry zoned out staring at the borked scoreboard while they made the announcement.