MONTREAL- After handing the Senators their first preseason loss only 24 hours earlier, the Canadiens were unable to generate any offense in a 3-0 loss to Ottawa at the Bell Centre, as the curtain fell on the preseason.
Despite the loss, the Canadiens wrapped up the preseason with a 5-3 mark while the Senators finished atop the Northeast Division with a 7-1 record.
The Canadiens and Senators clearly meant business with both lineups closely resembling what fans can expect to see on the NHL's opening night on Wednesday. Claude Julien brought out the heavy artillery as the Canadiens top-line of Saku Koivu, Alex Kovalev and Richard Zednik made only its third appearance of the preseason while Jose Theodore played a full 60 minutes, also for just the third time.
Theodore weathered an early storm from Ottawa, who pelted him 16 shots in the first period alone. Theodore ended up stopping 29-of-32 shots, including a number of big saves against the Senators' high-powered offense.
Dany Heatley opened the scoring just five minutes into the game when he broke in alone and fired a shot past the Canadiens' netminder. Training camp standout Brandon Bochenski made it 2-0 Ottawa before Heatley struck again to put his team ahead 3-0. Acquired from Atlanta in exchange for fellow all-star Marian Hossa, Heatley had a three-point night and earned the game's first star.
Despite working on a shutout, Dominik Hasek left the game at roughly the midway point of the second period after stopping all 14 shots that came his way. Ray Emery took over and held the fort as the Sens' padded duo combined on the shutout. Emery picked up where the Dominator left off making 14 saves of his own, including a point-blank glove save that robbed Mike Ribeiro of a sure goal in the third period on a nice cross-ice pass from Michael Ryder.
The mighty Canadiens power-play that ranks second in the NHL behind only Vancouver, was held off the scoresheet for the first time this preseason. After going 0-for-8, the Canadiens end the preseason with a 24.6% per cent average (18-for-73). The Senators meanwhile went 1-for-6 on the night.
The battle for positions up front for the Canadiens is clearing up considerably, with Guillaume Latendresse being sent back to his junior team in Drummondville earlier Sunday. Still, the big question mark for Montreal remains on the blueline. Aspiring rearguards Mark Streit and Ron Hainsey were both in the lineup as they each made their final impression on team management in efforts to crack the Canadiens regular season roster.
Head coach Claude Julien made it abundantly clear that tonight marked the end for one of his two defensemen on the bubble as the team would be going with eight to start the season. Julien also confirmed that the axe will fall on Monday morning at 10:30 for one blueliner and one forward as the Canaidens trim their roster from 25 to the required 23 players.
"Sometimes it takes longer for some guys to develop, but in Hainsey's case he has really improved," said Julien of the Canadiens top pick, 13th overall in 2000. "Even here at training camp, he has gotten better and better and he has not made our decision any easier."
In six preseason games, Hainsey scored a goal and ended up with a minus-2 rating, while Streit recorded an assist and had a team-low minus-6 rating in seven preseason contests. The 27-year-old captain of the Swiss National Team, Streit seemed satisfied with his overall preseason performance.
"All I know is that I did my best out there," said Streit, who has spent most of his career playing in Swizterland except for a brief stint in the AHL back in 1999-00. "I'm still adapting to the North American game and could still use some time to get even more comfortable. It's up to the organization at this point to make their decision. I guess we'll just wait and see what happens tomorrow."
The ongoing audition for the Canadiens' tough-guy vacancy got its last few uppercuts in on Sunday night with aspiring contenders Peter Vandermeer and Raitis Ivanans both being in the lineup. Vandermeer was the only one to drop the gloves on this night as he took on Chris Neil in the first period.
With the chips seemingly stacked against the possibility of the Canadiens keeping both enforcers on the roster to start the regular season, Julien begged to differ as he explained how the Canadiens had no intention of being pushed around in 2005-06.
"You look back at the job Darren Langdon did for us two years ago and the respect he gained us throughout the league and you really can't underrate his contribution," said Julien. "If we do decide to keep both Vandermeer and Ivanans on board, you just have to look at our own division to see that isn't such a stretch. You've got Toronto with Tie Domi, Wade Belak and Nathan Perrott and the Senators here tonight with Chris Neil and Brian McGrattan. We do not want teams walking all over us this year."
Once the cuts are announced on Monday morning, the focus will then shift to the Canadiens season-opener on Wednesday night. The Canadiens begin the season with three road games versus the Bruins, Rangers and then the Maple Leafs before hosting Ottawa at the Bell Centre on Oct. 11.
NOTES: The biggest news of the day came before the puck was even dropped as Guillaume Latendresse's Cinderella training camp came to an end on Sunday afternoon when the 18-year-old sentimental favorite to crack the Canadiens season-opening lineup was cut. Latendresse clearly already has a loyal following at the Bell Centre as chants of "Guy-Guy-Guy" and "We want Latendresse" could be heard at different points of the night. He can also take comfort in the fact that only two fellow 2005 draft picks remain on NHL rosters including of course Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh and Gilbert Brule of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Latendresse will now return to the QMJHL's Drummondville Voltigeurs where he is expected to make his season debut on Wednesday night in Shawinigan...Claude Julien's lineup went as follows: Kovalev-Koivu-Zednik, Pierre Dagenais-Ribeiro-Ryder, Jan Bulis-Radek Bonk-Alexander Perezhogin, Vandermeer-Tomas Plekanec- Ivanans.. And on the blueline: Hainsey-Craig Rivet, Streit-Mathieu Dandenault, and Mike Komisarek-Andrei Markov...D Sheldon Souray was among the game's scratches after leaving Saturday night's game with an apparent hand injury... Other regulars joining Souray in the pressbox were: C Steve Begin, RW Niklas Sundstrom, C Chris Higgins and D Francis Bouillon...
EXHIBITION SHOOTOUT RESULTS
| ||Goalie ||Goal |
|Jason Spezza (OTT) ||Jos Thodore ||YES |
|Dany Heatley (OTT) ||Jos Thodore ||No |
|Martin Havlat (OTT) ||Jos Thodore ||No |
|Alex Kovalev (MTL) ||Ray Emery ||YES |
|Michael Ryder (MTL) ||Ray Emery ||YES |
|Pierre Dagenais (MTL) ||Ray Emery ||-- |
Montral wins shootout 2-1
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com