TORONTO — Defenceman Xavier Ouellet, an NHL veteran who is in training camp with a two-way contract, helped his chances of making the opening-night NHL roster by scoring two goals Monday night in the Canadiens’ 5-1 preseason win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the arena formerly known as the Air Canada Centre. Artturi Lehkonen also scored twice and the offence complemented a strong performance from goaltender Antti Niemi, who weathered an 18-shot barrage in the first period. Niemi finished the game with 29 saves. Both teams elected not to employ many of their best players and used the game to evaluate players who are on the bubble.
Good feet, good hands: Lehkonen used both to give the Canadiens a 1-0 lead at 10:17 of the first period. Garrett Sparks, the AHL’s top goaltender last season, made the stop on Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s shot from the slot, but the rebound came out to Lehkonen at the side of the net. He used his skate to direct the puck to his stick and then beat Sparks for his second goal of the preseason. Prior to Kotkaniemi’s shot, the Leafs held an 11-2 advantage on the shot clock.
X-Man cashes in: Ouellet gave the Canadiens a 2-0 lead at 12:38 when he beat Sparks with a shot from the point. Michael Chaput was in front of the net to distract Sparks. Toronto coach Mike Babcock challenged the goal, claiming that Chaput was guilty of goaltender interference, but the replay confirmed that it was a good goal.
Kapanen cuts lead: The teams were playing 4-on-4 when Kasperi Kapanen scored the Leafs’ first goal on a rebound at the 34-second mark of the second period.
Ouellet encore: Ouellet scored his second of the game to give Montreal a 3-1 lead at 4:28 of the second period. His shot from the point found the top corner. You won’t find Kotkaniemi’s name in the scoring summary but he played a major role in the goal as he made a strong entry and then went to the front of the net to screen Sparks. Kotkaniemi was on the ice for three of the Montreal goals and was a plus-3 on the night.
Hudon’s a beauty: Charles Hudon scored the prettiest goal of the night to put Montreal ahead 4-1 at 5:54. Hudon took a pass from Rinat Valiev and then used a spin move to shake off defenceman Andreas Borgman before beating Sparks. Niemi also picked up an assist on the play.
Lehkonen’s second effort: Lehkonen didn’t get off a strong shot when Matthew Peca set him up in the slot late in the first period, but the Finn chased his own rebound and made it 5-1 at 14:57.
Specialty items: The Canadiens’ penalty-killing unit had a strong game, killing off all three Toronto power plays including a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:12 in the second period. The Canadiens failed to score on their four power plays and had five shots on goal.
Wednesday rematch: These two teams will meet again Wednesday and the good news for fans in Montreal is that both teams will feature stronger lineups as they prepare to meet yet again in the season opener here next Wednesday. The Canadiens wrap up their preseason schedule Saturday when they play the Senators in Ottawa.