OTTAWA — With the regular season just days away, Montreal coach Martin St. Louis was happy to see his team commit to the game plan and be rewarded with a 6-4 win over the Ottawa Senators.
The Montreal Canadiens had led the entire game, but in a span of 16 seconds watched as the Senators grabbed a 4-3 lead early in the third period.
“We could have let the game get away from us,” admitted St. Louis. “The guys showed confidence in how we play a team game.”
The Canadiens bounced back and scored three goals to wrap up the NHL pre-season with a 3-3 record.
Sean Monahan started the comeback tipping Mattias Norlinder’s shot to make it 4-4 and less than three minutes later Montreal won a battle along the boards allowing Rafael Harvey-Pinard to feed Cole Caufield for a one-timer, for what would prove to be the winner.
With two minutes remaining Arber Xhekaj scored his first of the pre-season, but it wasn’t initially called as it ripped right through the net.
“I shot it and it went under the goalie’s glove and I saw the net move back and the puck was behind the net so I was like it had to go in,” said Xhekaj after the game. “I was about to put my hand up, but everyone kept playing. It was pretty funny.”
Nick Suzuki and Juraj Slafkovsky also scored for the Canadiens.
The Senators finish the pre-season with a 6-2 record, with both losses to Montreal.
Senators coach D.J. Smith said: “I thought we battled pretty hard. We played most of the second period and the remainder of the game with 10 forwards.”
Both Zack MacEwen (upper body) and Tarun Fizer (lower body) left the game.
Smith admitted they made some mistakes, but liked the effort.
Trailing 3-2 the Senators scored a pair of goals 16 seconds apart to take the lead.
Ottawa tied the game on Roby Järventie’s fourth of the season and seconds later Ridly Greig gave Ottawa the lead.
Montreal goaltender Sam Montembeault, who made 21 saves, wasn’t able to grab a bouncing puck and Jordan Harris failed to clear the puck giving Greig the chance to jam it home.
After the game Smith said he felt Järventie showed progress and had a good camp, but he was assigned to AHL Belleville Saturday night.
Parker Kelly and Dominik Kubalik also scored for the Senators, while Mads Sogaard stopped 32 shots.
Unlike Montreal, Ottawa opted to sit most of its regulars.
The Canadiens got off to a quick start scoring just 33 seconds in, when Slafkovsky scored on a Mike Matheson rebound, and must have felt like they were playing a home game with the ovation they received from the 17,601 on hand at Canadian Tire Centre.
Just over a minute later Montreal struggled to clear the puck in front and Kelly jumped in and roofed it over Montembeault.
Pezzetta made it 2-1 at the 14-minute mark with a wrister that beat Sogaard.
Near the halfway mark of the second Suzuki made the most of a turnover and extended the Canadiens lead, but once again the Senators were able to cut the lead back to one at 3-2.
A nice rush by Ottawa was capped by a great feed from Erik Brannstrom over to Kubalik who wasted no time and snapped it over Montembeault.
“(Brannstrom) made that play perfectly,” Kubalik said. “It was a great pass and I just tried to one-time it because sometimes when I’m thinking too much it’s not the right play so I’m just trying to shoot the puck as quick as I can and luckily it went in.”
Kubalik was acquired over the summer and has been a nice addition to the lineup.
“I felt like we had a pretty good game I would say,” said Kubalik. “The guys battled hard, which is what we wanted. The last couple minutes kind of slipped away, but overall I think a pretty good battle.”
The Senators announced they had no timeline for centre Josh Norris’s return to the lineup. The Senators recalled six players from AHL Belleville for Saturday’s game.
Both teams open the regular season on Wednesday night. The Senators will play the Carolina Hurricanes, while Montreal will open the season against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 7, 2023.
Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press