The Canadiens played their penultimate game of the preseason on Wednesday as they travelled to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs for the second half of their home and home series. The Habs had a number of NHL regulars in the lineup, including Artturi Lehkonen, Phillip Danault, Brendan Gallagher, Charles Hudon, Jonathan Drouin, Nick Cousins, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Jordan Weal, Victor Mete, and Shea Weber. There were a number of players still fighting for their jobs as well in Nick Suzuki, Phil Varone, Mathew Peca, Dale Weise, Karl Alzner, Mike Reilly, Xavier Ouellet, and Christian Folin. Keith Kinkaid got the start in goal, with Charlie Lindgren backing up.
The mixture of Habs regulars and hopefuls were unable to generate anything against Toronto’s full NHL lineup, dropping the game by a final of 3-0.
The first period started with back and forth play. The teams exchanged some scoring chances, but other than a play in which Toronto hit both posts, there were not many high-quality chances. Early on, Kotkaniemi already looked like he was playing his best period of the preseason. He generated chances and won all his puck battles.
The Leafs were able to get on the board first around eight minutes in. There was a shot from the point that Kinkaid stopped but with an opposing player falling on him after being bumped by Reilly, he was unable to get the rebound and Trevor Moore put it in for a 1-0 lead.
Around one minute later, the Habs were given a powerplay. They had a lot of good pressure on the man advantage and had a number of quality chances to score. Unfortunately, the Habs were unable to put one past Andersen, and the Leafs killed off the penalty.
With just under four minutes to play in the first, there was a scramble in the Habs zone. Kinkaid was able to make a number of saves before John Tavares was able to squeeze a loose puck between his pads, and just across the line.
The Habs picked up their play a little bit in the last three minutes but were unable to score and headed to the dressing room in a 2-0 hole. This was not the best period of the Habs preseason, to say the least.
The second period started in a similar way that the first ended. The Leafs were putting pretty good pressure on the Habs to start. The Habs started to take it back to the Leafs, including Gallagher just missing the top corner with a great wrist shot.
The Habs had a good shift in the Toronto zone, but Hudon got his stick up high on a Leafs player and was sent to the penalty box. The Habs came up with a great penalty kill, only allowing a couple of chances. Then two minutes later, Hudon returned the favour and was able to draw an interference penalty.
On the ensuing powerplay, the Habs first unit looked very good and got a lot of chances on net. Late in the powerplay, Hudon was finally able to slide a rebound between Andersen’s legs. The goal was called off due to the referee deeming that the puck was kicked in. The replay on the broadcast clearly showed Hudon hitting the puck with his stick, but unfortunately, there was no official video review for this game.
With five minutes to go, Danault was tripped in front of the net, sending the Habs to the power play. Forty seconds in, Weber was called for roughing, and the powerplay was offset. The Habs were sent to the box again with a minute left when Weise took an ill-advised tripping penalty in the offensive zone. The Habs were able to hold off Toronto’s attack and headed to the second intermission down by two, with a minute of penalty time still to kill.
The Habs were able to finish the kill to start the third. Three minutes into the period, Lehkonen came close to getting Montreal on the board as he hit the post with a shot but Gallagher was unable to put the rebound home. Later on, Marner made some moves into the Habs’ zone, but Kinkaid was up to the task, making a great save with his outstretched pad.
On the faceoff after the great save, Peca was called for a penalty for covering the puck with his hand. The Canadiens’ penalty kill was not very tight, and the Leafs were able to extend their lead with a one-timer from the faceoff circle from Auston Matthews. Shortly after, Weal picked up a loose puck at centre ice and was in all alone but was turned aside.
The rest of the period was rather uneventful. Each team had a few scoring chances, but no more goals were scored. The Habs went back to the dressing room with a disappointing 3-0 loss for the second straight. The Habs will play their final preseason contest on Saturday at the Bell Centre; we should see close to their full lineup for this game and then it’s on to the regular season.
HabsWorld Habs Three Stars
First Star – Keith Kinkaid
Kinkaid played a pretty good game despite the scoreline. You could not fault him on any of the goals against, as he didn’t get much help from the defence. He also faced 49 shots and was able to smother 46 of them. Kinkaid looks like he is ready to take the backup position and have a solid season.
Stats: 46 saves, .939 save percentage
Second Star – Nick Suzuki
Suzuki has so many different skill sets. Tonight, he showed many of his defensive abilities including very effective minutes on the penalty kill. He played centre and tried to generate offence but did not get a lot of help from his linemates. Suzuki has shown that he will be a very valuable player to the team, being able to kill penalties, play on the powerplay, and play all three forward positions.
Stats: 15:55 TOI
Third Star – Jesperi Kotkaniemi
Kotkaniemi played one of his better games of the preseason. He looked very strong and was hard to knock off the puck. He showed off his skill, making moves around defencemen and getting quality shots on target. He looks like he is just about ready for the season
Stats: 3 SOG 15:06 TOI
Honourable Mention – Brendan Gallagher
You know what you are going to get with Gallagher every time he suits up. He grinds out every shift and never takes a shift off. He had a lot of quality chances tonight but he could not finish them off. He has played two games this preseason and has two goals so he is definitely ready for the season
Stats: 6 SOG 15:57 TOI