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Canadiens get first preseason win by beating Sens 4-2

by Arpon Basu /
MONTREAL -- Lars Eller didn't do a whole lot statistically in his first pre-season game for the Montreal Canadiens, but he did enough to impress his new coach.

The promising 21-year-old Danish forward is carrying a heavy load this season as the prime piece that came in return from St. Louis for playoff hero Jaroslav Halak in an offseason trade. He acquitted himself quite well in his Canadiens debut, a 4-2 victory against the Ottawa Senators on Friday night.

"I liked Lars' performance, it was the first opportunity I had to see him play," coach Jacques Martin said. "I liked his speed, his quickness, he wants the puck. I thought he was on a lot of loose pucks. He went to the net, he went into traffic. He showed a lot of good things."

A natural center, Eller played left wing on a line with Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta – a spot filled most often by Benoit Pouliot last season – and he may have suffered somewhat from the strong chemistry between Gomez and Gionta as they looked mainly for each other on the ice.

"Maybe it looked like that a couple of times," Eller said. "You can't blame them, they've played alongside each other for a long time. I'll get my chance."

Indeed he will, as Eller is practically a lock to make the team this season, especially considering what the Canadiens gave up to get him.

But while Martin came away impressed with his performance, Eller vowed that he still has more to give.

"It was OK," Eller said. "I think I can do better. I think I want to do better. But it was not bad."

P.K. Subban, Andrei Kostitsyn and Mathieu Darche scored three straight goals and Dustin Boyd also scored in his first game in a Canadiens uniform after coming from Nashville in the offseason trade that sent Sergei Kostitsyn to the Predators.

Mike Fisher scored on Ottawa's second shot of the game, the second time in two preseason contests a Montreal goalie has allowed the second shot to get past him.

But unlike Carey Price in a 4-2 loss to the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night, former Senator Alex Auld stopped the next 10 shots he saw in his first game with his new team and finished with 11 saves before being replaced midway through the second by rookie Robert Mayer, who was even better with 18 saves on 19 shots.

"I've been playing this game since I was four years old," said Mayer, 20, who will likely play at AHL Hamilton this year after spending last season in the ECHL. "I just tried to make it look easy and give up no rebounds."

Ryan Keller scored Ottawa's second goal with 1:20 left in the second period to make it a 3-2 game off a great feed from former Habs draft pick Corey Locke.

Pascal Leclaire played all 60 minutes in goal for the Senators and stopped 24 of 28 shots.

The most notable training camp storyline for the Senators on this night was Peter Regin playing on a line with Fisher and Alex Kovalev, a top-six spot for which he is battling Nick Foligno.

Regin did most of the work on Fisher's goal, creating a turnover behind the Canadiens net and sending a pass in front to Kovalev that ricocheted to Fisher all alone in the slot. He made no mistake with a rifle wrist shot high to the glove side of Auld at 4:17 of the first.

"We played a lot together last season, and I think we've really got something going," Fisher said. "I think if we get a few more games together we'll be ready to go."

The Canadiens tied it at 12:57 of the first on a one-timer from the blue line by Subban, one of several eye-opening plays made by the electrifying 21-year-old defenseman.

"I didn't want to put too much pressure on myself coming into the first game of the preseason," said Subban, a crowd-pleaser who was named the game's first star. "I just tried to keep the mindset of trying to get a feel for the game.

Kostitsyn made it 2-1 when he received a gift pass on the tape from Senators defenseman Chris Phillips right in front of Leclaire and roofed a wrist shot at 10:50 of the second period.

The Canadiens have been experimenting with a new power play formation in training camp, one favored by new Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher when he was coaching in Hamilton last season. It worked to perfection as defenseman Mathieu Carle set up in the slot, took a pass and sent it quickly to David Desharnais on the goal line. He put it through the crease to Mathieu Darche in front for an easy tap-in to give Montreal a 3-1 lead at 15:50 of the second.

All three of those players hail from the province of Quebec and played for Boucher last season in Hamilton.

"It is a change in our system," Martin said. "I think it worked out very well. We've had a goal in each pre-season game. We still have a lot of work to do, but it's encouraging to see some rewards."

Keller's goal came at 18:40 of the second when Locke found him in the slot surrounded by three Canadiens defenders but still managed to one-time a shot past Mayer.

Boyd re-established Montreal's two-goal margin when he redirected a point shot from the lip of the crease at 11:55 of the third.

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