The Montreal Canadiens continued their preseason schedule with their first road tilt on Saturday night against the Ottawa Senators. Youngster Nick Suzuki was given a major test in the game, lining up on the top line with veterans Phil Danault and Tomas Tatar. Second-year pivot Jesperi Kotkaniemi lined up with Charles Hudon and Joel Armia. The third line featured Jordan Weal between Phil Varone and Dale Weise while Matthew Peca, Jake Evans, and Riley Barber rounded out the forward lines. On the back end, Ben Chiarot and Jeff Petry were paired up. Mike Reilly played with Cale Fleury while Otto Leskinen and Christian Folin made up the third pairing. Newcomer Keith Kinkaid was given the nod in goal, with Cayden Primeau backing up.
The Canadiens started slow but dominated the rest of the game. They scored first in the second period and did not look back. In the end, the Habs were too much for the Senators as they walked away with a 4-0 victory.
The Habs looked a little flat to start the game, as the Senators carried the play early on. Just under four minutes in, Kotkaniemi was called for tripping, sending the Sens to their first powerplay. Montreal was able to come up with an impressive kill, not allowing any shots on net, and sending the puck right back down after Ottawa brought it into the zone.
Around five minutes later, Fleury got a little too rough in the corner with Lajoie and was penalized. Early in the powerplay, Kinkaid made a great point-blank save on Anthony Duclair. The Habs did not allow many chances, and any that they did allow, Kinkaid was ready for. Just as the penalty expired, Kinkaid made a massive, ten-bell save on Alex Formenton; he reached his glove back to the goal line and pulled the puck back for a highlight of the night candidate.
As the period went on the Habs started to get their legs under them and make some more plays. This included a nice rush where Kotkaniemi took the puck and made a few nice moves around the Ottawa defence, but Craig Anderson was able to get a piece of his high shot, and covered for the whistle.
With under three minutes left in the first, Weal had to take a holding penalty to help prevent a scoring chance in front of the Canadiens net. The ensuing powerplay was short-lived for the Sens, as Colin White got the gate for holding. The Habs dominated the following 4-on-4 but could not get the puck past the Sens goaltender. The teams went to their respective dressing rooms with a scoreless tie.
The Canadiens had a much better pace to start the second period, with the top line leading the charge. Tatar, Danault and Suzuki were showing some great chemistry with one another, and getting some high danger scoring chances.
Six minutes in, Formenton was called for a hook on Tomas Tatar, sending the Habs to their first full powerplay. The Canadiens wasted no time, winning the faceoff back to the point; the puck was then sent down low to Danault, who centred for Armia. The pass ended up going over to Petry who fired it home for the Habs first powerplay goal of the preseason. This is a play that we saw the Habs go to a lot on the man advantage near the end of last season and hopefully it is something that they continue to succeed with this year.
The Canadiens continued to carry the play after the goal. Tatar and Suzuki kept showing chemistry and generated a scoring chance whenever they were on the ice. The Chiarot and Petry pairing were also looking good with solid play in their own zone leading to rushes going the other way. Montreal’s dominance was shown in the 14-1 shot advantage that they possessed in the second period with four minutes left.
The Habs were able to double their lead late when Barber forced a turnover behind the Sens net. He corralled the puck and sent a perfect pass out front to Jake Evans, who blasted his second goal of the preseason.
A couple minutes later the Sens were able to get a puck past Kinkaid. However, an Ottawa forward interfered with the Habs goalie and it was immediately waved off. Before the end of the period, Kinkaid made two bigger saves to preserve the Canadiens 2-0 lead.
The Habs looked great again to start the final frame. Tatar, with defenders all over him, was able to make some great moves and set up Armia but he couldn’t finish it. The fourth line made some great plays to send Evans in alone, but Joey Daccord, who took over for Anderson to start the period, was up to the task.
Four minutes in, Peca was hit hard, sending the Habs to another powerplay. The Canadiens had some great puck movement on the man advantage. Late in the advantage, Tatar made some great moves to get into the zone, he then sent it back to Reilly who gave it right back. Tatar then fired the puck in the top corner. This goal would not have been possible if it wasn’t for a great screen.
Shortly after, Matthew Tkachuk bumped into Kinkaid, sending the Habs on another powerplay. They wasted no time on this one. The faceoff was won straight back to Petry, who shot it towards the net and Danault made a great tip to put it past Daccord. The Habs’ third powerplay goal of the game put them up 4-0.
Midway through the third, Petry was called for a trip. But the Habs penalty kill continued their perfect night, not allowing many chances. Any pucks that got through were easily steered aside by Kinkaid. Chiarot got called for another penalty late, but it was much of the same for the Canadiens penalty kill.
The Habs coasted to the end of the third, with the away fans singing to their victory. The final buzzer went and the Habs were victorious 4-0! This was a great game for every player in a Habs uniform, with many players continuing to impress. The battle for roster spots will only get tighter, as the Habs play their final three tune-up games, and head into the new season.
HabsWorld’s Habs Three Stars
First Star-Jeff Petry
Petry played another great game for the Habs tonight. He was used in all situations and the Habs carried the play whenever he was on the ice. He was great on the powerplay, scoring a goal, and adding a helper. He was a key contributor to the Habs perfect penalty kill as well. Jeff appears to be in midseason form already.
Stats: 1G, 1A, 2 PIM, 21:54 TOI
Second Star-Keith Kinkaid
This was Kinkaid’s first appearance in a Canadiens’ uniform. He looked great from start to finish. He was solid in his positioning and rarely looked out of place. He also did a great job of challenging the shooters and cutting down their angles. On top of that, he made an unbelievable save that we will see many times again. If there were any doubts that Keith will be the backup this season, they were silenced tonight.
0.00 GAA, 1.000 save percentage, shutout, 16 saves
Third Star-Tomas Tatar
Tatar was all over the ice tonight. He generated numerous chances when he was on the ice. He created high-danger chances with his strong net drive, and his ability to find his teammates in the slot. Everybody knows that he works great with Danault but he also showed great chemistry with Nick Suzuki in this game.
Stats: 1G, 1A, 11:37 TOI
Honourable Mention-Nick Suzuki
Before the game, many believed that this would be Suzuki’s biggest test of the preseason. If it was, he passed it with flying colours. Nick was a reliable player in all three zones. He was very sound defensively and was able to generate many chances offensively. He was effective on the penalty kill and on the power play. Suzuki also showed great chemistry on a line with two of Montreal’s best forwards. His chances of making the team are very high at this point, and a very exciting season could be on the horizon for him.
Stats: 1A, 5 SOG, 16:02 TOI