It was one more game against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night, and one more chance at a preseason redemption, but the Canadiens could not grasp that, falling to the resurgent Ottawa team in a 3-2 overtime loss, and finishing the preseason with a perfect winless record at 0-8 (well, 0-6-2 if we count the loser points).
First you pass …
Chris Wideman took an interference penalty early, just before the two-minute mark, but this time the potent Ottawa power play unit could make nothing of it.
The Canadiens got their own chance just after the eight-minute mark when the referee’s hand went up to signal a hooking penalty to Scott Sabourin in the offensive zone. The Habs were able to maintain control and get the faceoff in the Ottawa zone.
This particular power play was one of the best in the preseason, with Sean Monahan, Cole Caufiel,d and Wideman exchanging tiki-taka passes and the Senators’ defence powerless to stop them.
Just 18 seconds in, Monahan passed the puck to Caufield, who skated into the left-side hash marks and let go his trademark wrist shot to beat Magnus Hellberg and give the Habs a 1-0 lead.
After another uneventful 10 minutes of play, Rem Pitlick hip-checked a hard-skating Jacob Larsson in the Ottawa zone, sending him flying over and onto the ice. The Senators took exception to it, and the ensuing shoving match resulted in 36 minutes of penalties, including three misconducts.
With no further scoring, the Habs finished the first period with a 1-0 advantage, and a 7-6 edge in shots.
Shouldn’t give the Sens second chances
Juraj Slafkovsky was called for tripping soon after the Pitlick penalty expired, at 3:38, and the Senators were once again quick to take advantage.
Shane Pinto took a wrist shot from the right side, and Drake Batherson flipped Jake Allen’s rebound over to the left, where Derick Brassard was already waiting. With Allen on the wrong side of the net, Brassard made no mistake in flipping the puck into the net and tying up the score at 4:04.
At the 15-minute mark of the period, Corey Schueneman lost the puck on the right-side boards, and Dylan Gambrell bolted away with it, with Sabourin on his wing.
Justin Barron tried to block the pass with a full-body slide but could not, and Jake Evans couldn’t prevent Sabourin from taking the shot. And, yes, Allen couldn’t make the save, either, so the Senators claimed a 2-1 lead.
With just 99 seconds remaining in the period, though, Evgenii Dadonov made a tidy cross-ice pass to Kaiden Guhle, and his one-timer from the right-side circle beat Hellberg cleanly to tie the game back up.
In the dying seconds before the buzzer, Pitlick broke in more time with Slafkovsky and got a clean pass over to the young Slovak, but Slafkovsky’s shot went wide.
The shots were 10-6 in the Habs’ favour in the period, but the Senators doubled them in what matters, the goal count.
Somebody needs to score a third goal
The third saw the Senators controlling much of the game, even if the scoring chances were not particularly dangerous.
Pinto got called for two penalties, the only ones of the period, at 0:48 and 12:44. On both power play opportunities, though, the Canadiens struggled to establish puck control in the offensive zone – until the last 20 or so seconds of each power play. And that, really, was not enough to get a high-danger chance and bear Hellberg.
The Senators outshot the Habs 8-3 in the final period, but neither team managed to put anything on the scoresheet.
And, finally, it’s over
The Senators showed the same puck control in the three-on-three overtime period that they had already demonstrated in the third period, and Batherson was very close to a top-shelf goal just 30 seconds into overtime.
Two minutes in, things went from bad to worse. Batherson and Erik Brannstrom broke in. Allen made a save on Brannstrom, and then body-checked Batherson to keep him out of play.
No call, luck was with the Habs there, but karma is indeed something to fear, and payback was near immediate. As the Habs carried the play back to the Senators’ zone, the referees called interference on Wideman, who largely looked like a spectator on the play in question. Nevertheless, two minutes in the box was decreed.
In the end, he would only have to sit for 27 seconds as Pinto fed Batherson, who shot the puck from the left-side circle to the top-right corner of the net, beating Allen and ending the Habs’ preseason misery.
Shots in overtime were 4-1 for the Sens, but that lone Ottawa goal was all that it took to wrap things up.
HW Habs Three Stars
First Star: Kaiden Guhle (1g, 0a, 4 shots) potted his third goal of the preseason and surely cemented his place in the Habs’ lineup for the coming week’s season-opener.
Second star: Sean Monahan (0g, 1a, 0 shots) was again dominant in the faceoff circle, and instrumental in the Habs’ first goal on the power play. Can he maintain his faceoff results in the regular season?
Third star: Cole Caufield (1g, 0a, 5 shots) did what he does best, drilling holes in the back of the opposition’s net. Expectations for the young winger will be high for the coming season.
Honourable mention: Chris Wideman (0g, 1a, 0 shots) was called for a penalty at a bad time, but arguably it was a make-up call by the referees. Wideman has been playing far more minutes in the pr-season than he did last season and seemingly making fewer defensive errors. The time to confirm that he can be more than just a power-play specialist is coming next week.