MONTREAL - Here are a few key storylines from Saturday night's 4-3 overtime win over the Ottawa Senators at the Bell Centre.
The kids are alright
The Canadiens decided to give 20-year-old hopefuls Cale Fleury, Ryan Poehling, and Nick Suzuki one last chance to prove they belong in Montreal to start the season, and they did not disappoint.
Suzuki was the standout on this night, logging an impressive 19:22 of ice time - second among Habs forwards - while registering a pair of shots on goal and as many hits. And oh, did we mention he scored the overtime winner, too?
"The coaching staff have been preaching hard forechecks," described Suzuki. "I was coming on fresh and he was a bit tired. I just took it hard to the net."
Video: OTT@MTL: Suzuki scores on wraparound in overtime
The London, ON native should be able to sleep well knowing he's performed as well as he could this training camp and has given Canadiens management plenty of reasons to want to keep him around.
"I think I've done everything in my power [to stay with the Canadiens]. I know there's room for improvement for sure, but I've been proud of myself through this whole camp, with coming to work hard every day and having a lot of fun here," shared Suzuki. "My goal is definitely to stay here."
Video: Nick Suzuki on his overtime winner
For his part, Poehling played a more defensive role centering a line between Joel Armia and Nick Cousins. And though the American forward spent a bit too much time in the sin bin, he had a strong overall game given he hadn't seen any game action since September 18.
Poehling was proud of the fact he was able to contribute at the other end of the ice in this one.
"You can put me in a position where you want me to be an offensive guy, and you can also put me in a position where you want me to be a defensive guy," outlined Poehling. "I have that gift where wherever you put me, I can contribute in a positive way. I thought we did a pretty good job of that tonight."
Video: Poehling on his energy level coming back from injury
Head coach Claude Julien gave the centerman a positive rating for his night's work.
"He had a good game tonight. That's the evaluation I made of him," said the coach. "He's continuing to show his worth. For a guy who hadn't played in a week, he recovered well."
As for decisions Julien and the Habs brass will have to make about whom to keep and whom to cut, the bench boss acknowledged they'd have to mull things over before coming to any conclusions.
"We don't have any announcements to make tonight, but there will be one in the next few days," explained the coach. "We still have to reduce our number to 23, so there are decisions to be made in the next few days."
Poehling wasn't the only player returning to action from injury, with Paul Byron (upper-body) and Carey Price (bruised hand) also drawing back into the lineup.
In Poehling's case, he said his legs didn't feel as badly as he thought they might.
"I didn't play a crazy amount so it's not too hard on your body," said Poehling, who skated for 11:56. "I was only off for five or six days. It's kind of like riding a bike. Once you get out there and get your feet moving, you get into it a little easier."
The Habs netminder, meanwhile, stopped 34 of 37 Ottawa shots on Saturday and told reporters he felt comfortable in his first game since the 5-4 shootout win over the Florida Panthers on September 19.
"I feel pretty good. I'm just ready to get things going," declared Price. "It's not my first time through this. I'm just excited to get the season started."
Is it October yet?
Phillip Danault believes his squad has tightened up their game of late and says it reflected in the way the Canadiens battled on Saturday.
"As a team, we had a big practice yesterday," said the Victoriaville native, who opened the scoring at 16:16 of the first. "We worked on a lot of details, speed… and we fully applied it tonight."
Video: OTT@MTL: Danault wires wrister past Nilsson on rush
With their seven-game preseason schedule out of the way, the Canadiens are chomping at the bit for the real show to begin, even if they could still use a bit of fine-tuning.
"We'd be lying if we said there weren't things to work on. But as the game went on, we got better and better and I think that's important. When the puck drops in Carolina, we want to be ready to go," said Brendan Gallagher, who wove a beautiful pass through the crease to set up Tomas Tatar for Montreal's second goal of the night and deflected Jeff Petry's shot to tie things up late in the third. "We've had enough time to practice and to warm up; we're ready to play for real now. We got all the mistakes out of our system and we should be ready to go."
Video: OTT@MTL: Tatar puts home Gallagher's pretty pass
The Canadiens are off on Sunday and Monday and resume practicing on Tuesday at 11:00 a.m. at the Bell Sports Complex. They'll then hit the road for Raleigh, where they face the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night to open the regular season.