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Habs drop preseason opener

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens
Koivu's eye passes the test in his first game

Guillaume Latendresse had a busy night with a goal, a missed penalty shot and four hits.

MONTREAL (CP) - The Canadiens lost the game but felt like winners when captain Saku Koivu's injured left eye passed its toughest test so far on Tuesday night.

Koivu was hardly bothered by the eye in Montreal's 5-2 pre-season loss to the Boston Bruins.  The Finnish centre had surgery for a detached retina this summer after he was clipped by a Justin Williams high-stick during the playoffs in April. He started camp concerned about his slightly reduced peripheral vision and a small cataract that recently appeared on the eye.

"There's less doubts now," he said. "This was the next step and I'm happy with the way things went.

"It will take some time before I'm 100 per cent comfortable and won't think about the eye, but I didn't feel I was lost out there. A few times, I had to look down for the puck, but that's something that's going to happen. With more practice, I'm sure I'll adapt to it."

Koivu had 14:07 of ice time and assisted on Michael Ryder's power play goal in the second period. Guillaume Latendresse, the star of last year's training camp, added a goal in the third period for Montreal.

"It's a big relief to us, but also for him," said head coach Guy Carbonneau. '"Everyone was wondering at the start of camp what his reaction would be."

Marco Sturm scored twice while Mark Mowers, Paul Mara and Zdeno Chara also had goals for Boston, which scored three times on the power play in the first period and never looked back.

The Bruins outshot Montreal 38-21, including 19-2 in the third period, when 19-year-old Carey Price excelled in the Canadiens net.

The two clubs play again Wednesday night at the Bell Centre. Boston, beaten 5-0 by New Jersey on Sunday, evened its pre-season record at 1-1. It was the Canadiens' first game.

It was a first taste of action as a Bruin for Chara, the former Ottawa stalwart who signed as a free agent with Boston this summer.

"For most of us, it was our first exhibition game, but I think everybody worked really hard and that's why we won," said Chara.

Sturm and Mowers scored with the Canadiens a man short and Mara got one on a two-man advantage against Cristobal Huet in the opening period.

Chara was left alone in the slot to score just as a power-play ended at 7:20 of the second frame for Boston and Sturm got his second 12:20 into the third period when his shot from the point hit a stick and got past Price.

The teams were each a man short when Latendresse drilled a shot on a rush past Brian Findley. The 19-year-old looks to have picked up where he left off last September.

"Maybe it's because I get the chance to play with better players," Latendresse said of hot NHL training camps. "I'm not the best playmaker and I need a good centreman and winger to help me.

"I think in the NHL, players do all the little details that help me with my game."

Latendresse, who was rewarded with some shifts on Koivu's line in the third period, also had a penalty shot at 2:12 of the second period after he was hooked from behind on a breakaway, but was stopped by Thomas.

Huet allowed four goals on 16 shots and was replaced 10:22 into the second frame by Price, who right away made a smart glove save from point blank on Glen Murray.

Tim Thomas played the first two periods for Boston, making 18 saves, while Findley took over in the third.   Carbonneau, the former assistant who is now head coach, said his first game went well.

"I was happy with the effort," he said. "The mistakes we made were mostly from lack of experience."

NOTES: Defenseman Jean-Philippe Cote, who was injured during a scrimmage Sunday, will miss 4-to-6 weeks with a sprained knee.

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