Even though Montreal was playing games on back to back days they could not have been too tired as they only played 20 minutes out of 60 in yesterday's game. A little harsh, I know, but the truth hurts sometimes. They would have to play a full 60 minutes against the 10-2 Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. A game like this is really a litmus test for the home team as they would be able to show how they stack up against one of the strongest teams in the league.
Everything about the Cape Breton team is intimidating from their record to their black and yellow uniforms. They are a cohesive, talented and quick skating team that would push Montreal in all areas. You had to hope that the local boys had a good night's sleep before this encounter.
Like most games between two talented teams this one began with them feeling each other out. There was plenty of dumping and chasing going on and play between the two blue lines. Suddenly though there came a bunch of offensive chances. Montreal scored the first goal of the game in the third minute on a innocent looking wrist shot by T.J. Brennan from the right point. The puck had eyes and snuck by Screaming Eagles' goaltender Olivier Roy.
You would think that this early strike would give Montreal the confidence it needed, but instead it served to wake up the visitors. Cape Breton scored on the next rush up the ice. After that Guillaume Asselin came down the right wing on a 2 on 1, but he rung his shot off the crossbar. Was this game going to become a last shot wins it type contest?
No, as the defences settled down and the ragged play with tons of whistles returned. Montreal did have a few chances but could not hit the broad side of a barn. By missing the net they were wasting their few offensive chances. They also had to find a way to get offence from a line besides the Angelo Esposito trio.
The changing moment of the game came after Jan Piskacek levelled Luke Adam with an Ulf Samuelsson-type (read knee on knee) hit. As Adam hobbled off the ice Angelo Esposito dropped the gloves and took on Piskacek. This was a encouraging show of pride and team play by Esposito, but your most talented offensive player is not who you want to see in a fight. To compound that problem because he was the instigator of the fight Esposito received an extra 2 minutes and a game misconduct.
It was going to be a big test for Montreal to see if they could generate some offence without Esposito. Thankfully, Luke Adam started the 2nd period and did not seem to have suffered an injury on the hit. Without Esposito Montreal struggled in the offensive zone and were completely dominated by Cape Breton. The only reason that Montreal was still in the game, as they were being outshot 21-4 in the second period, was the stellar play of goaltender Jake Allen. The constant pressure finally resulted in a Cape Breton goal by captain Chris Culligan off a pretty pass from Michael Stinziani.
Though they were up 2-1 at the end of two, you had to think that Cape Breton might end up regretting not cashing in on more of their chances. Montreal was only trailing by one goal and still in the game. Cape Breton gave themselves some breathing room by scoring an early goal in the third period. Montreal was now in a hole by being two goals down and not producing any offence to speak of.
Montreal did pull Allen with 1:20 left in the game and scored a very late goal, but the final 3-2 score was very flattering for the Junior as the game was not that close. Cape Breton showed why they are the class of the league. Montreal showed that they are going to have to get a little more creative on offence and less reliant on Esposito's line to score.
On a positive note Montreal rookie Chris Smith had a good game and created several scoring chances for himself and his linemates. This play plus the loss of Esposito led to Smith be rewarded with some powerplay time. Maybe we witnessed the beginning of better things and more ice time for Smith. Lets hope his whole team can follow his lead and improve their game for the upcoming battles against Quebec and Victoriaville next weekend.
-On Ice Officials: Referees: Dominic Franc and Stephane Tremblay
Linesmen: Sylvain Losier and Harold Dorvil
-Goals: 1st Period:
3:02 – Montreal: T.J. Brennan assisted by Angelo Esposito and Nick Layton
3:49 – Cape Breton: Vincent Lavigeur assisted by Chris Culligan
14:54 – Cape Breton: Chris Culligan assisted by Michael Stinziani
1:09 – Cape Breton: Nick MacNeil assisted by Samuel Finn and Robert Slaney
19:35 – Montreal: Luke Adam assisted by Nick Layton
-Shots on Goal: Montreal: 24
Cape Breton: 45
-Three Stars: 1) Chris Culligan
2) Jake Allen
3) Nick MacNeil