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Rookie Showcase 2019: Canadiens fall to Jets as training camp looms

Not the weekend the team was looking for, but bigger things lay ahead for the Canadiens.

Shanna Martin

Jets 2, Canadiens 1

After an up and down showing on Saturday night against the Senators prospect team, the Canadiens young stars were back in action against the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday. While the Montreal prospects showed solid flashes against Ottawa, they were unable to find the back of net net more than twice as the more experienced Senators side came away with 4-2 win.

Despite playing the night before, Joël Bouchard opted to start Cayden Primeau against the Jets prospects. Opposing him was Griffen Outhouse who just finished a stellar WHL career.

Also drawing into the lineup were Michael Pezzetta, Vincent Marleau and Jack York, the latter two being tryouts looking to make a good final impact before they head back to their junior clubs.

It didn’t take long for the Jets to give Montreal a major opportunity, with a hooking penalty in the opening two minutes sending the Canadiens to an early power play. The idea was clear once again, the Canadiens wanted to hammer passes into the slot, but they failed to generate much against Outhouse on their man advantage, a trend carrying over from Saturday night.

The line of Ryan Poehling, Nick Suzuki and Rafaël Harvey-Pinard continued to be the standout trio of the showcase for Montreal early on, maintaining heavy pressure on the Jets with a relentless cycle game along the boards. In spite of their strong start, the Jets opened the scoring first thanks to a strong wrist shot from 2019 first rounder Ville Heinola.

The Canadiens were down for long, as two of the most experienced prospects on the roster combined to tie the game up just two minutes later. Otto Leskinen fed a pass to Jake Evans who flew in up the wing, and led a pass for Alexandre Alain. The second year pro got just enough of the puck to chip it by Outhouse and tie the game up.

Giovanni Vallati sent Montreal to a second power play with a cross checking penalty late in the first, the cross check in question also drew the ire of Michael Pezzetta who jumped in immediately to let the Jets player have a piece of his mind.

The power play came to nothing, with the Canadiens spending time on the perimeter looking for shooting lanes and the Jets not yielding much to them in that regard. The two sides went to the locker room tied at one goal apiece, with a slight shot advantage to Montreal 10-8 overall.

While Montreal continued to control the flow of play, and pile on more shots in the second frame they were not able to find a second goal early on. With almost half the period gone the Canadiens presented the Jets with a chance to tip the momentum back in their favour. Michael Pezzetta went to the box on a delay of game penalty, giving the Jets their first power play of the game, but a steadfast penalty kill saw it taken care of easily.

Winnipeg ended up cancelling out their own power play before it was over with Luke Green throwing a knee on knee hit against Nick Suzuki, dropping the star prospect to the ice. While a handful of Canadiens attempted to get at Green it appeared that Suzuki was fine, and Montreal headed to another man advantage. The power play did finally create a goal, however it was for the Jets as Johnathan Kovacevic shot one through Cayden Primeau to put Winnipeg back on top.

Montreal continued to put pressure on as the period wound down, but many of their shots came from low percentage areas, and after 40 minutes the Canadiens led in shots, but trailed by a goal on the scoreboard.

It was slow starting for Montreal in the third as the team struggled to mount a cohesive attack through the neutral zone and into the Winnipeg zone. Jake Evans was again a leading force with the puck on his stick, but the other lines failed to make much impact in the first half of the period.

The Jets changed goaltenders before the midway point of the period as well, swapping Outhouse for Adam Carlson. Outhouse exited with 20 saves on 21 shots against in around 47 minutes of play for the Jets.

The Canadiens prospects stayed stuck in neutral for most of the third following the goalie change, making life very easy on Carlson. It wasn’t until the final few minutes where they finally generated a meaningful attempt on a scramble in front, and it initially looked like a tie game. The officials ruled that Carlson had covered the puck up, and Harvey-Pinard could not score his second of the tournament.

With just under two minutes left the Jets presented Montreal with one last ditch effort to tie the game thanks to a James Phelan tripping penalty. Even with Primeau on the bench, and the man advantage Montreal mustered up no dangerous challenge, and they dropped their final game of the showcase 2-1

Next up is a day off on Monday before a game against a USports team on Tuesday. Then the main camp looms for a handful of these prospects.