Much to the delight of a raucous sell out crowd at the Verdun Auditorium, the Montreal Juniors beat the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies 5-3 on Friday night to take a 1-0 lead in their best of seven first round playoff series.
Montreal jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first on goals by Nick Layton and Dmitry Kostromintin, the latter converting a power play opportunity.
Benoit Gervais cut Montreal's lead in half with a goal at 10:45 of the second period, but power play goals by Louis-Marc Aubry and Matt Fillier in the first 10 minutes of the third put the game away. Nicolas Deslauriers and Dominik Bohac scored for the Huskies at 14:36 and 18:40 of the third, but it was too little too late.
David Foucher rounded out the scoring with an empty netter at 19:44 of the third.
Montreal goalie Jake Allen, out almost three weeks with a lower body injury, looked like he hadn't missed a game. Composed, steady and technically sound, he outplayed his counterpart Mikaël Audette by a wide margin. The latter seemed nervous and his lateral movement was suspect. The first two Montreal goals were due in part to his inability to get across the net to cover his left post.
In fairness, he didn't get much help from his teammates who took a total of 10 minor penalties, 8 of which came in the final two frames.
Saturday's game should be interesting. Both teams executed their basic game plans well. Montreal played a mature game and used their speed to their advantage. The Huskies countered the finesse with a very physical game, hitting everything that moved, and hitting it hard. They made an especially concerted effort to hit members of Montreal's undermanned defense corps every time one of them handled the puck. The strategy might prove useful if the series turns into a drawn out war of attrition, but unless the Huskies get some goaltending and stay out of the penalty box, they won't be around long enough to find out.
Game 2 of the series goes Saturday, March 22nd at 7:30 pm at the Verdun Auditorium. The Juniors are hosting a tailgate party starting at 5pm on the concourse in front of the Auditorium. The party will feature music, beer, hot dogs and a slap shot competition.
-After Saturday's game, the series moves to Rouyn-Noranda for two games on March 24th and 25th. If necessary, game 5 will go Friday, March 27th in Montreal (7:30 pm), game 6 on Sunday, March 29th in Rouyn-Noranda and game 7 on Tuesday, March 31st in Montreal (7 pm).
-Is he Irish? The Huskies rang a couple of shots off the post in the first period, including one less than a minute before Nick Layton opened the scoring. Either Jake Allen had the luck of the Irish on his side or else it's like the old saying goes: he hit the post because that's all the goalie gave him.
-Found: One Scoring Touch: Louis -Marc Aubry scored 6 goals in his first 64 games. He has scored 5 in his last two.
-Things That Make You Go Hmmm: Rouyn-Noranda's Benoit Gervais is a prototypical power forward. He's big, he hits, he scores and he's got a bit of a mean streak. Too bad he's a defenseman.
-Fuzzy Wuzzy: Speaking of Gervais, he's already got a playoff beard that would make a lot of NHLers jealous. He's going to look like Grizzly Adams by Game 3.
-Things That Make You Go Hmmm, II: There was only one fight during the game and Montreal didn't send any of the usual combatants (Fillier, G-difficile, super bug Samuel Grenache or Pier-Antoine Dion) into the ring. Rather, it was mighty mite Matthew Brenton who dropped the mitts. After exchanging a few pleasantries with 6'3 Jean-Sébastien Bérubé, the 5'8 speedster, who is known more for his tireless skating and penalty killing prowess, went toe to toe with Christophe Losier. In spite of giving up 3 inches and about 10 pounds, Brenton acquitted himself very well.
-Better Late than Never: David Foucher's empty netter was his first goal of the season. While it is hard to classify it as a classic, he did manage to avoid Mikaël Audette's water bottle which had somehow found its way into the slot area.
-Sighs of Relief: Montreal's Dmitiry Kostromitin went heavily into the boards with 5 and a half minutes to go in the first. While Montreal dressed 6 D, Frank Grzeszczak didn't touch the ice for the third straight game so losing Kostromintin would have left them with 4 active defenders. After getting a little TLC from the trainer, Kostromintin was good to go.
In the third period, Rouyn-Noranda rookie sensation Sergey Ostapchuk slid feet first into the boards and had to be assisted off the ice. Hockey fans in general and Huskies fans in particular were relieved to see him back on the ice a few minutes later.
-Things That Make You Go Hmmm III: Nick Layton scored the first goal of the playoffs for Montreal. Back on September 12th, he scored the first goal of the regular season for the Juniors.
-Welcome back from injury Toni Ritter.
1) Dmitri Kostromintin, Montreal
2) Nick Layton, Montreal
3) Gabriel Lévesque, Rouyn-Noranda
Shots on Goal:
On Ice Officials:
Referees: Eric Charron and François Fortin
Linesmen: Yannick Massé and Sylvain Losier
MTL – Nick Layton (Pat O'Keefe, Matt Fillier) 4:16
MTL – Dmitri Kostromitin (Matthew Brenton, Guillaume Asselin) (power play) 11:23
ROU – Benoit Gervais (Sergey Ostapchuk) 10:45
MTL – Louis-Marc Aubry (Dmitri Kostromitin, Nick Layton) (power play) 3:09
MTL – Matt Fillier (Nick Layton, T.J. Brennan) (power play) 9:30
ROU – Nicolas Deslauriers (Gabriel Lévesque) (power play) 14:36
ROU – Dominik Bohac (Gabriel Lévesque, Jean-Sébastien Bérubé) 18:40
8. MTL – David Foucher (unassisted) (empty net) 19:44