MONTREAL - In what might have been his final game at the Bell Centre before heading back to his junior team in Drummondville, training camp sensation Guillaume Latendresse refused to go quietly by sealing a 4-3 overtime win over the Bruins Tuesday night at the Bell Centre.
The rugged winger was all over the ice once again with two points, including his tip-in of an Andrei Markov blast from the point on the game-winning goal at the 2:12 mark of overtime as the Canadiens improved their preseason record to 4-1.
"The thing that impresses the most about this kid is how you don't have to tell him anything twice," said Julien of his 6-foot-2, 225-pound pupil. "We had a little chat this morning and I told him not to hold anything back and that we needed him to play physical, especially around the net. All I can say is he got the job the done again tonight and he'll be back in the lineup [Wednesday] night."
With his two-point effort, Latendresse now finds himself one point back of the team leaders in points with five, while co-leading the Canadiens with three goals in just three preseason games.
"After a having a tough time in Toronto last Thursday when my line was minus-two, it felt good to make things happen here tonight," said Latendresse. "Being on the ice for three goals tonight felt really good. I've got a job to do and I'm just glad I helped us get this win."
Perched high above the ice at the Bell Centre as Latendresse wrote the latest chapter of his storybook training camp was the Bruins' very own former 18-year-old phenom, Patrice Bergeron. No one in attendance knew more about what Latendresse is going through right now than Bergeron, who made his own leap straight from junior to the Bruins lineup after being drafted in summer of 2003.
"The number one thing I would tell him right now is to just to have fun out there," said Bergeron from the Bell Centre press box. "And besides, what does he have to lose? No matter where he ends up playing this year, whether it's here in Montreal or back in junior, there are good points and bad ones. Either way, he just has to keep working hard."
The parallels between Latendresse and Bergeron extend beyond the obvious. Both were drafted at identical points in their respective draft years, with Latendresse being selected 45th in 2005 and Bergeron 45th in 2003. Their QMJHL seasons prior to being drafted are also quite similar. The Drummondville Voltigeurs' Latendresse put up 29 goals and 78 points last season, while Bergeron recorded 73 points, including 23 goals, in 2002-03 with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.
And that's not all. Bergeron, who put up a pedestrian three points in nine preseason games in 2003, made his biggest splash at the Bell Centre when he scored an overtime-winner of his own in a 1-0 shutout win over Montreal almost two years ago to the day, on Sept. 19, 2003. All too aware of what Latendresse is trying to accomplish, Bergeron didn't mince words when it came to his opinion on whether an 18-year-old can handle the jump directly to the NHL.
"I know everyone gets hung up on a player's age, but let me tell you, when you're ready, you're ready and that's all there is to it," said Bergeron, who put up 39 points in 71 games as an 18-year-old with the Bruins in 2003-04. "If you show that you have what it takes at the NHL level, I don't see why age should even be a factor."
Bergeron got his first look at Latendresse on Tuesday night and it didn't take long for him to understand what all the fuss is about.
"He looked really comfortable out there, that's for sure," said Bergeron, who also saw Latendresse throw his weight around with a game-high seven hits. "Sure he got on the scoresheet, but he also did the little things that coaches look for. He finishes his checks, gets his nose dirty and sometimes that can really make the difference."
In what has become a league-wide refrain throughout the preseason, penalties are what made the difference once again with all but one goal in the game coming on the power-play. That was great news for the Canadiens' top-rated power-play unit, which continued its torrid pace by going 3-for-9 on the night to improve to a league-best 27.7 per cent so far this preseason.
The Canadiens faced a Bruins lineup that was missing such notable names as Joe Thornton, Bergeron, Sergei Samsonov and newcomer Alexei Zhamnov. The Canadiens were also missing a number of big names with Saku Koivu, Alex Kovalev, and Sheldon Souray all sitting out.
Also lighting the lamp for Montreal on the night were Pierre Dagenais, Ron Hainsey and Richard Zednik. On the Bruins' side, Brad Isbister, Brad Boyes, and Glen Murray all tallied for Boston.
Yann Danis looked solid in the early going stopping the first 11 shots he faced and ended up turning away 21 of 24 pucks that came his way. Tuesday's contest marked the first complete game played by Danis, who continues to jockey for the Canadiens' vacant back-up job to Jose Theodore.
"He made the big saves when he had to," said Julien of his 24-year-old goaltending hopeful. "He may have wanted a few of those shots back that got by him, but this was his first full NHL game. We were pleased with his overall performance tonight."
Julien wrapped up his post-game press conference by announcing that there will be a few more cuts prior to the Canadiens' trip to the Maritimes to face the Bruins on Wednesday night in Moncton, N.B. The Canadiens will then wrap up the preseason with back-to-back games versus the undefeated Senators in Ottawa on Saturday and at the Bell Centre on Sunday night.
NOTES: Julien's lines on Tuesday night featured Dagenais/Mike Ribeiro/Alexander Perezhogin, Latendresse/Tomas Plekanec/Zednik, Peter Vandermeer/Steve Begin/Chris Higgins, and Andrei Kostitsyn/Corey Locke/Jonathan Ferland. Blue line pairings featured Mike Komisarek/Markov, Craig Rivet/Hainsey, and Francis Bouillon/Mark Streit... RW Michael Ryder, who is now back practicing with the team, remained in the press box as he continues to nurse an injured right ankle. Ryder is hoping to see his first preseason action Wednesday night against the Bruins in Moncton, N.B.
EXHIBITION SHOOTOUT RESULTS