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After a pair of losses, the Habs looked to secure their first win of the preseason on Thursday as they hosted Winnipeg.  They had a late lead but weren’t able to hold on, falling 4-3.

As expected, it was a largely different lineup from the one that played in Toronto on Wednesday but it was still a group that narrowly got to the ‘veteran’ minimum for the game.  The lines were as follows:

Dadonov – Dvorak – Gallagher
Heineman – Dach – Caufield
Simoneau – Kidney – Martel
Roy – Gignac – Belzile

Guhle – Savard
Xhekaj – Wideman
Norlinder – Trudeau


Winnipeg had the first strong chance as Alex Belzile turned it over in the defensive zone two minutes in.  Evan Polei sent it out to Cole Meier but Jake Allen was square to the shot.

Montreal got the first man advantage of the game when Ville Heinola was sent off for a hold on Christian Dvorak.  For about 1:55 of the power play, they did nothing.  However, Kirby Dach rushed it in on the right side in the dying seconds, delayed, and found Kaiden Guhle at the point.  The blueliner got to the faceoff dot and sniped one home.  It technically wasn’t on the man advantage but the Canadiens were on the board nonetheless.

A minute later, Belzile rang a shot off the post while the top line (or the only line fully comprised of NHL players) had a good shift a minute after that but they weren’t able to beat David Rittich a second time.

Pierre-Luc Dubois then was called for a trip on Danick Martel, giving the Habs another man advantage.  Cole Caufield had a good look in close early while the first wave moved the puck around well but couldn’t hit the net with another shot while the second unit didn’t do much.

Less than a minute after the penalty ended, Kyle Capobianco sent a low, weak shot from the point.  It hit Brad Lambert’s skate and slid sideways right to Polei who wound up with an empty net to tap it into with Allen in position to stop the original shot.  Polei made no mistake to tie the game.

The Jets found their skating legs after that as they controlled the play for the next several minutes.  Allen stretched out to stop Logan Stanley in tight to thwart Winnipeg’s best chance of that stretch.

With a little over a minute to go, Brandon Gignac was skating around the offensive zone.  He did enough to draw a trip on Polei and during the delayed penalty, William Trudeau came close to restoring the lead.  However, in the abbreviated advantage before the buzzer, it was Dubois that had the best chance off the rush.  The period came to an end tied while Winnipeg held a 9-5 shot advantage.

Montreal had a couple of looks late in the carryover power play but couldn’t score.  They got another opportunity four minutes later when Capobianco was sent off for a trip on Emil Heineman.  Again, the Jets had the best chance when Jansen Harkins tried to feed a streaking Meier but Caufield did well to hustle back and break that play up.

Winnipeg got their first man advantage two minutes after that penalty ended and this time, it was Heineman committing the infraction (a hold) on Capobianco.  They couldn’t muster up much and the game hit the halfway point, ending Allen’s night and putting Cayden Primeau in.

He was tested early as the Jets got another power play when Trudeau was called for a cross-check on David Gustafsson.  Kevin Stenlund got in behind Mattias Norlinder on that advantage but Primeau made the stop.  However, not long after the penalty ended, Arber Xhekaj turned it over in his own end, leading to a Jeff Malott chance.  That didn’t go in but play continued with Meier eventually getting control behind the net.  He wrapped it around and sneaked it between Primeau’s pad and the post to give the visitors the lead.

Winnipeg then had a third power play late in the frame when David Savard was sent off for an iffy cross-checking call on Dylan Samberg.  They couldn’t do much in the opening 81 seconds before the period came to an end, one that saw the Jets hold the 10-5 advantage in the shot department.

Arvid Holm took over between the pipes for Rittich to start the third and wasn’t tested for a while; Winnipeg had the carry-over advantage and the Canadiens couldn’t muster up much for a bit after that.

Capobianco’s eventful night continued with a cross-check on Gignac, sending the Habs to the power play.  It looked a lot better this time around.  Chris Wideman set up a Caufield one-timer that Holm just got a piece of while Xavier Simoneau set up a good chance from Evgenii Dadonov at the end of the advantage.  They couldn’t score, however.

Just past the eight-minute mark, Kirby Dach drove the net and Holm made the stop.  Play went to the corner where Dach and Stanley received offsetting minors.  Shortly thereafter, Capobianco high-sticked Christian Dvorak.  It initially went uncalled but a linesman pointed it out and eventually, a four-minute penalty was called.  This time, the Canadiens took advantage.

Caufield took a pair of shots early on.  Both were blocked but the second went high in the air and bounced.  Brendan Gallagher was right there and he batted the puck past Holm to tie the game.  In the second half of the advantage, Gallagher slipped a pass to Caufield as the winger blew by Johnny Kovacevic and fired a low stick-side shot past Holm to give the Habs the lead.

Montreal got another power play when Polei tripped Caufield but it was Winnipeg who had the best chance, one that saw Wideman come back the two-on-one to block Mason Appleton.  Seconds later, Guhle interfered with Dubois, creating a four-on-four.

It didn’t take long for the Jets to score after as a tough Dadonov giveaway saw the puck go right to Brad Lambert whose shot beat Primeau clean.  Once they got to their power play, they had a couple of one-timers from Nate Schmidt but not much else.

However, in the dying seconds of regulation (17 seconds left, to be exact), Schmidt had another one-timer from the point.  This one hit and broke Dadonov’s stick, forcing the puck to change direction completely and get by Primeau to secure the comeback victory for Winnipeg.  While the end result was the same, the Habs had a strong third period and held the 15-6 shot advantage.

HW Habs 3 Stars

1st Star: Cole Caufield – He was fairly quiet early on but he has the type of game-breaking talent to take over a game.  He did that in the third and played a big role in them taking the lead.  I also particularly liked the backcheck earlier on to break up an odd-man rush with the Habs on the power play.

Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, even rating, 7 shots, 17:53 TOI

2nd Star: Kirby Dach – He was somewhat quiet offensively aside from a couple of nice plays (including the setup on Guhle’s goal) but I liked his all-around effort.  He moved well without the puck, played with an edge, and was effective on the penalty kill.  A much better showing compared to his preseason opener.

Stats: 1 assist, even rating, 2 PIMS, 1 shot, 9/15 faceoffs, 19:23 TOI

3rd Star: Kaiden Guhle – He had a bad break with the late penalty but it was a solid, if not limited game from the rookie.  He was used in more of a third-pairing role which might be where he is if he makes the team.  He was steady defensively, jumped in the attack at the right times, and was quite physical.  That should check a lot of boxes for the coaching staff.

Stats: 1 goal, even rating, 2 PIMS, 4 hits, 7 shots, 16:30 TOI

Honourable Mention: Brendan Gallagher – He looked like he had a lot more jump compared to last season which is a good sign.  Perhaps the extended offseason did him some good in terms of getting healthy.  It would certainly be a big boost to the Habs if that is the case.  A solid start to Gallagher’s preseason.

Stats: 1 goal, even rating, 4 shots, 18:41 TOI

Following the game, the Canadiens sent Riley Kidney and Joshua Roy back to the QMJHL.  Neither player was eligible to start the season in Laval.  The roster now stands at 68 players.