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23rd of October 2018

Canada



Jonathan Drouin gets a scare before Canadiens beat Senators 3-2

Forward struck in the face with puck during pregame warmup, but returns to play strong game while flying up and down the left wing.

Canadiens goaltender Carey Price makes a save against the Ottawa Senators during second period NHL pre-season hockey action in Montreal on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. Graham Hughes / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Things didn’t start well for the Canadiens on Saturday night at the Bell Centre when Jonathan Drouin was struck in the face with a puck during the pregame warmup and left the ice bleeding. But they ended well with the Canadiens beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 to improve their preseason record to 3-1.

Last year, the Canadiens finished the preseason with a 2-6 record before finishing 28th in the overall NHL standings during the regular season.

Drouin was turning away from the net during the pregame warmup when a puck ricocheted off the post and hit him just below the visor. Drouin headed to the locker room for repairs and was on the bench when the game started and played very well, flying up and down the left wing all night on a line with Jesperi Kotkaniemi at centre and Joel Armia on the right.

“I got pretty lucky,” Drouin said after the game about getting hit in the cheek with the puck. “Just a little cut on the inside (of the mouth).”

Nikita Scherbak, Paul Byron and Tomas Tatar scored for the Canadiens, while Brady Tkachuk and Cody Ceci replied for the Senators. Carey Price played the entire game in goal for the Canadiens, making 16 saves as Montreal outshot Ottawa 32-18.

First shot, first goal: Tkachuk scored on the Senators’ first shot at 1:15 of the first period when he snuck behind defenceman Jeff Petry at the blue line and took a nice pass from Mark Stone before breaking in alone on Price and beating the goalie high to the stick side. The Senators took Tkachuk with the fourth overall pick at this year’s NHL Draft, one spot after the Canadiens took Kotkaniemi. The Senators didn’t get their second shot on goal until there was 2:37 left in the first period, which ended with the Canadiens outshooting Ottawa 7-3.

11th shot, second goal: Defenceman Ceci put the Senators up 2-0 at 17:41 of the second period when he beat Price short-side, high to the glove hand from the middle of the faceoff circle to the goalie’s left. It was the 11th shot for the Senators. Scherbak cut the Senators’ lead to 2-1 less than a minute later when he scored from an almost impossible angle along the boards near the goal line to goalie Craig Anderson’s left at the 18:25 mark. In the goalie’s defence, Tomas Plekanec was creating a screen in front. It was the second goal of the preseason for Scherbak.

Quick start to third period: The Canadiens got two goals in 33 seconds early in the third period to go ahead 3-2. Byron scored at the 1:18 mark on a nice wrist shot that beat Anderson — who was partially screened by one of his defencemen — high to the glove side and then Tatar scored at 1:41 when he deflected a point shot by Brendan Gallagher. It was the first goal of the preseason for both Byron and Tatar, who was acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights in the Max Pacioretty trade.

Kotkaniemi replaces Domi: With Max Domi suspended for the remainder of the preseason for a sucker-punch on Florida Panthers defenceman Aaron Ekblad, Kotkaniemi moved into the centre spot on the Canadiens’ top line between Drouin and Armia. The other lines had Phillip Danault between Tatar and Gallagher; Plekanec between Byron and Scherbak; and Mike McCarron between Hunter Shinkaruk and Joel Ward. Kotkaniemi made a beautiful play during the first period when he cut to the middle from the right-wing boards and then rifled a shot from the top of the slot off the crossbar. He hit a goalpost later in the period. The 18-year-old looks more comfortable on NHL ice every game.

Youth on the blue line: Defencemen Victor Mete, 20, and Noah Juulsen, 21, have been paired together since the start of training camp and looked good again against the Senators, both finishing plus-2. The other defence pairings had Karl Alzner with Petry and Mike Reilly with Jordie Benn. Reilly had a team-high six shots on goal.

Veteran at centre: Veteran centre Tomas Plekanec won 13-of-18 faceoffs he took (72 per cent), while Mike McCarron won only 1-of-7 (14 per cent). Kotkaniemi won 3-of-7 faceoffs he took (43 per cent).

What’s next? The Canadiens will play their fifth of seven preseason games Monday night when they visit the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Maple Leafs will visit the Bell Centre on Wednesday night before the Canadiens wrap up their preseason schedule with a game in Ottawa next Saturday night.

scowan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/StuCowan1

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