Friday, September 18, 2009

Canadiens beat Senators 2-1

jm09 0918 senators 01.thumbnail Ben Maxwell battles Pascal LeClaire Friday night – Montreal Gazette photo

It certainly wasn’t a playoff game, and you didn’t miss much if you missed the first two periods, unless you like a good fight or tow, otr three.

Nonetheless, the Montreal Canadiens came alive, in the third period of this pre-season tilt, to beat their division rival Ottawa Senators tonight at the Bell Centre 2-1.

Montreal only mustered four shots in the  first period, and the Senators scored the lone goal of the period, when Milan Michalek fired a Jason Spezza pass by goaltender Jaroslav Halak.

Michalek was making his first appearance for Ottawa since being traded from San Jose in the Dany Heatley deal.

The Canadiens showed signs of life in the second, inspired by hopeful Ben Maxwell who tied the game at one on the powerplay at 5:15.

Another hopeful, Eric Neilson, showed the Bell Centre crowd his pugilist skills.

After laying out the Senators’ Jeremy Yablonski with a solid hook early in the period, he later took on Ottawa tough guy Chris Neil to a draw.

jm09 0918 senators 05.thumbnail Eric Neilson goes at it with Chris Neil – Montreal Gazette photo

The New Brunswick native wasn’t finished as he and teammate Andrew Conboy would have a mini scrap with Ottawa’s Matt Carkner and Cody Bass respectively halfway into the third period.

“Neilson did an outstanding job,” said Canadiens head coach Jacques Martin. “He’s a smart individual who doesn’t put his team in trouble.”

Neilson’s 37 penalty minutes on the night is not surprising. 

He racked up 207 PIM in 53 games with the Peoria Rivermen (AHL) last year and used to be Sidney Crosby’s body guard when the two played Junior in Rimouski.

Brian Gionta, one of the  newcomers with high expectations this season, took a Tomas Plekanec pass to beat Robin Lehner with the game-winning goal at 15:56.

Plekanec and Gionta showed improvement, with linemate Max Pacioretty, as the game progressed, despite Pacioretty leaving the game briefly midway into the game.

The two teams meet again tomorrow, in Kanata, where former Hab Alex Kovalev is expected to play.

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