Montreal Canadiens vs. Ottawa Senators @ Bell Centre – September 24, 2011

Turnaround is fair play they say.  Well, the Montreal Canadiens were victims of that in the second game of an away-and-home series against the Ottawa Senators.  Friday night in Ottawa (Kanata actually) the Senators, a team in a rebuilding phase, took a 3 goal lead, frittered it away, allowed Scott Gomez to score the tying goal with less than one minute remaining, and Montreal pulled the game out of the fire by winning it in shoot out.  On Saturday night at the Bell Centre the Senators did almost the same thing to the Habs.

Courtesy of two Michael Cammalleri goals the Canadiens had taken a 2-0 lead late into the 2nd period.  His two goals, coming less than 3 minutes apart, demonstrated the type of skilled hands he has.  At 4:23 of the 2nd the diminutive winger deflected a point shot by Mark Mitera past a flummoxed Robin Lehner.  His second was a break away (excellent pass by Aaron Palushaj) which he once again beat Lehner this time he went top shelf.

In such a low scoring affair in which goaltender Carey Price was having a strong game a two goal lead late in 2nd seemed like a safe one.  It wasn’t due to some sloppy play on the Habs part.  Late With only 25 seconds left in the 2nd period 19-year-old Nathan Beaulieu unwisely tried to pinch in from his point position and this created a 2-on-1 the other way.  Milan Michalek, using a screen, wristed a 40 foot shot past Price, who could see nothing.

Then halfway through the 3rd period the Senators benefited from some luck when Chris Neil’s centering pass from the left corner deflected off the left skate of Habs’ defenceman Jeff Woywitka past a helpless Price.  Two goal lead now gone.

With only 2:28 remaining in the game captain Brian Gionta committed a selfish and brainless play of the type I hope we don’t see again from him.  On one of rare times in the game that Tomas Plekanec implicated himself physically, he hit Senators’ defenceman Matt Carkner heavily within his own zone.  Not very happy about the hit, Carkner was like a bull seeing red and was just looking for anyone in a red shirt to hit.  He found Gionta and roughed him up and bit along the boards at centre ice.  Instead of being disciplined, especially in the last few minutes of a tied game, Gionta responded with a slash and of course the ref saw the retaliation.

And the Senators made Gionta and his teammates pay with a power play goal by (you guessed it) Chris Neil with just 28 seconds left in the game.

This was not exactly a scintillating hockey game.  There were long stretches of the game where nothing happened and the crowd was totally out of it due to lack of excitement.  Both sides came into the game with plenty of rookies in their line ups (The only veterans on Montreal were Cammalleri, Plekanec, Spacek, Price, Moen, Woywitka,  Gorges, and Gionta) and that could have had something to do with it.  But on the Canadiens side, you know you are not having a good night when your strongest players are ones who won’t be with your team during the regular season.

Now I know that this was just a preseason game, but some of the Canadiens veteran players looked like they would rather be somewhere else.  No effort, no jump and definitely no sacrificing the body to make the play.  They were just out for a skate.  I expect more of the team’s first line centre.  Tomas Plekanec had no jump and almost looked like he didn’t even want to shoot the puck on net.  Travis Moen was another.  For a player who is battling for time on the 4th line you would think that he would like to have made more of an impression.  There was even a chance for him to fight Chris Neil, who was causing all kinds of problems for the home side, in the 3rd period and he refused.  It was the end of a shift, but when a guy who has been running around and with his physical play being a sparkplug for his team taking him off the ice (even if it means taking a licking) for 5 minutes seems like a no brainer to me.

It wasn’t all bad for the Canadiens in that Carey Price, a guy who has shown that he is not usually at his best in the preseason, played a strong game.  One goal he was screened on and another went in off his defenceman’s skate.  Plus he made a couple of sparkling saves to boot.  Good sign that he is getting back into form.

Another Hab who had a good game was Michael Cammalleri.  A sniper.  He will be streaky, but last night he was on.  In his 18:59 of ice time he had 7 shots and worked well with his young linemates Palushaj and Gabriel Dumont.  He is a player the team is going to need to score 30-40 goals if they are going to be successful.

With the young players there was some bright lights and some others who had tough nights.  This year’s first round selection Nathan Beaulieu, paired with Josh Gorges on the evening, came back to Earth after having a great game against Buffalo.  In this game he looked 19-years-old.  His judgement was off and he was forcing things looking for low percentage stretch passes that were often intercepted.

Two bright lights, besides Palushaj, were linemates Phil Desimone and Olivier Archambault.  They made things happen offensively when they were on the ice.  Especially Archambault, who showed plenty of creativity and that he possesses a nice pair of hands.

Next up for the Canadiens is another back-to-back series.  This time against the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Boston Bruins.  The first is Sunday in Halifax and then Monday night back at the Bell Centre.

Game Stats:
-On-Ice Officials:  Referees:  Mike Leggo and Gord Dwyer
Linesmen:  Scott Cherrey and Derek Nansen
-Goals: 2nd Period:
4:23:  Montreal – Michael Cammalleri assisted by Mark Mitera and Aaron Palushaj
7:02:  Montreal – Michael Cammalleri assisted by Aaron Palushaj and Mark Mitera
19:35:  Ottawa – Milan Michalek assisted by Stephane Da Costa and Jared Cowen
3rd Period:
8:57:  Ottawa – Chris Neil assisted by Milan Michalek and Peter Regin
19:32:  Ottawa – (pp) Chris Neil assisted by Nikita Filatov and David Rundblad
-Shots on Goal:  Montreal:  24
Ottawa:  28
-3 Stars:  1)  Chris Neil – Ottawa
2)  Michael Cammalleri – Montreal
-Attendance:  21,273
-Final Score:  Montreal:  2
Ottawa:  3

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