MONCTON - So much for Hockey Night in Moncton. The Canadiens dropped a 5-2 decision to the Bruins in a rare NHL preseason visit to the Maritimes on Wednesday night.
Despite taking a 2-1 lead into the third period and outshooting Boston by a 41-29 margin, the Canadiens were unable to close out the Bruins who stormed back for a 5-2 victory. With the loss, the Canadiens fell to 4-2 in preseason play, while the Bruins now sit at 3-3.
After missing the Montreal's first five preseason games due to a right ankle injury, Michael Ryder made his return to the ice on a line with Mike Ribeiro and 18-year-old training camp standout Guillaume Latendresse. Ryder, who was the runner up for NHL rookie-of-the-year honors in 2003-04, shook off whatever rust he had in a hurry by scoring the Canadiens first goal of the night. The power-play tally came with under five minutes remaining in the second period as Ryder grabbed his own rebound before slipping it past Bruins goalie Hannu Toivonen on a play set up by Saku Koivu and Alex Kovalev.
Mike Ribeiro was the author of the Montreal's prettiest goal as he completed a terrific three-way passing play from Radek Bonk and Alexander Perezhogin at the 18:52 mark of the second period.
With the Canadiens leading 2-1 heading into the final frame, the Bruins came out firing and roared back with four unanswered goals, including an empty netter en route to a 5-2 final. Patrice Bergeron got the ball rolling for the Bruins when he tied the game early in the third before the floodgates opened with goals by Mike Fitzgerald, Ben Walter and Brad Boyes.
Jose Theodore went the distance, stopping 24-of-28 Bruins shots that came his way. Toivonen meanwhile turned away 39-of-41 shots he faced.
It seems the news of the NHL's league-wide parade to the penalty box this preseason did not make it all the way out to Moncton, as referees Kevin Pollock and Tom Kowal kept their whistles in their pockets and called only 16 penalties on the night. A far cry from the Canadiens' preseason average of 23 total calls per game.
The Canadiens, who came into Wednesday night's game with the NHL's top-ranked power-play so far this preseason, did go 2-for-9 on the night while the Bruins went 2-for-7.
Claude Julien's troops did manage to leave Moncton on a positive note by winning the exhibition shootout by a 2-1 score. Kovalev remained perfect on shootouts as he scored his third goal in three attempts so far this preseason. Ryder capped off his season debut by also converting his first-ever shootout opportunity. Glen Murray was the only Bruins shooter who managed to sneak one past Theodore.
The Canadiens will wrap up their eight-game preseason schedule with back-to-back games against the undefeated Senators on Saturday in Ottawa and Sunday night at the Bell Centre. Montreal opens the regular season against the Bruins in Boston on Oct.5.
NOTES: C Radek Bonk now leads the team with seven points in four preseason games... Free agent signing Mathieu Dandenault was not in the lineup for best possible reason - the birth of his first child. Dandenault stayed in Montreal with his wife Marie-Christine, who is resting comfortably with their new baby girl... The Canadiens training roster now stands at 27 after the team announced five more cuts this morning before heading of to Moncton to take on the Bruins. Forwards Corey Locke, Andrei Kostitsyn, and Jonathan Ferland as well as defensemen Jean-Philippe Cote and Andrew Archer were all sent down to join the Hamilton Bulldogs' training camp...
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com