MONTREAL – Montreal Canadiens Lars Eller and Ian Schultz stepped into a very bright spotlight Friday.
Eller and Schultz made their debut for Montreal in a 4-2 pre-season win over the Ottawa Senators. The pair were acquired from the St Louis Blues in an off-season trade for playoff-hero goalie Jaroslav Halak.
Eller moved from his natural position of centre to play left wing on a line with Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta. Although he didn’t register a point, he showed promise working hard in the corners and driving to the front of the net.
“It was OK to start, but I can do better, I want to do better,” said Eller. “Playing with the two guys I did made it easy, I felt comfortable on the wing.”
Schultz made an impression of his own after fighting Cody Bass in the first period with no decisive winner.
Alex Kovalev made his return to the Senators lineup, playing for the first time since knee surgery ended his season last year.
Kovalev was cheered when he was announced as part of the starting lineup but jeered every time he touched the puck. He assisted on the opening goal of the game, a Mike Fisher shot from the slot that beat Alex Auld.
“We played a lot together last year, I think we really got something going,” said Fisher about playing with Kovalev and Peter Regin. “If we get a few more games in, we’ll be ready to go.”
After the Senators opened the scoring, the Canadiens evened things up when Gomez stopped to set up in the offensive zone and made a pass to P.K Subban who hammered a one-timer past Senator’s goalie Pascal Leclaire.
“Gomer (Scott Gomez) and Gionta found me a couple times, you really notice those players when they are out there, they’re just so good,” said Subban. “Nice to have chemistry with them, I just got to find them a little more.”
Montreal took its first lead midway through the second when Chris Phillips turned the puck over to an unmanned Andrei Kostitsyn who made no mistake.
Mathieu Darche scored on the power play to put the Canadiens up by a pair, but that lead was short lived.
The Senators pulled within one with just over a minute left in the second period, with Ryan Keller beating goalie Robert Mayer on a quick shot in front of the net.
Boyd added some insurance in the third period for the Canadiens, deflecting an Alex Henry point shot to complete the scoring.
Auld made 11 saves on 12 shots before Mayer came in midway through the second period and turned aside 18-of-19 shots.
The Senators elected to keep Leclaire in for the full 60 minutes. He made 24 saves on 28 shots.
The Canadiens improved their pre-season record to 1-1-0 and the Senators dropped to 1-2-0.
“It was a sloppy exhibition game, not a lot of flow,” said Fisher. “We’ve got to be better than that.”
Notes: Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Sergei Gonchar didn’t dress for the Senators. … The two teams will play again Saturday night at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa.