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Prospect Nick Suzuki scores OT winner as Canadiens top Senators


MONTREAL — A game-winning goal was the icing on the cake for Canadiens prospect Nick Suzuki at the end of a solid training camp.

Suzuki scored in overtime to give Montreal a 4-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators in the final pre-season game for both teams.

The London, Ont., native is hoping to make Montreal’s 23-man roster ahead of Thursday’s season opener at the Carolina Hurricanes.

“I’ve done everything in my power,” said the 20-year-old Suzuki. “There’s room for improvement for sure, but I’ve been proud of myself through this whole camp. I’ve been coming to work hard every day and having a lot of fun here.

“My goal is definitely to stay here.”

Suzuki was acquired in the trade that sent Max Pacioretty to the Vegas Golden Knights last season. General manager Marc Bergevin had called Suzuki the “key piece” of that trade.

While he was not expected to make the team until next year, his impressive training camp — both at centre and on the wing — has given the Canadiens something to think about in the coming days.

Suzuki scored the winner with 56 seconds left in overtime on a wraparound, his first of the pre-season, after stealing the puck from Jean-Gabriel Pageau. The former Guelph Storm star finished camp with one goal and three assists.

“He’s done everything he possibly could,” said Brendan Gallagher of Suzuki. “You could tell how hard he’s worked to improve, even from last year to this year. He’s improved a ton and he’s earned the opportunity to play on our team. It’s something we’re excited about because we know he’s going to contribute.”

Phillip Danault, Tomas Tatar and Gallagher scored in regulation for the Canadiens (5-2-0). Back after missing two games with a bruised left hand, Carey Price stopped 34-of-37 shots.

Bobby Ryan, Anthony Duclair and Filip Chlapik scored for the Senators (3-3-0). Backup Anders Nilsson made 31 saves.

With the score tied 2-2 late in the third, Chlapik gave Ottawa the lead by easily intercepting an errant pass from Price with 2:17 left in the game.

The Canadiens then pulled Price and scored with the extra attacker when Gallagher deflected Jeff Petry's point shot between Nilsson's pads with 58 seconds on the clock before Suzuki netted the OT winner.

“There are still things we want to work on, but those things will come,” said coach Claude Julien. “The guys will be ready to go on Thursday because we need to start the season strong.”

While the final pre-season game is usually a good indication of a team's opening-day roster, both Julien and D.J. Smith gave a handful of prospects some additional ice time.

Instead of playing forwards Jonathan Drouin and Nate Thompson, the Canadiens gave another look to fan-favourite centreman Ryan Poehling, who missed the last four games with a concussion.

For the Senators, it meant giving Logan Brown, Vitaly Abramov and defenceman Erik Brannstrom one final exhibition start.

It was a first-period mistake by Brannstrom that led to the opening goal when Joel Armia stripped him of the puck in the neutral zone. Danault scooped it, crossed the blue-line and beat Nilsson at 16:16 while playing shorthanded.

The Canadiens doubled their lead at 5:57 of the second period when Tatar cashed in a cross-crease pass from Gallagher.

Ottawa made it 2-1 through Ryan's second of the pre-season at 9:06. Ryan was gifted the goal when Dylan DeMelo's shot rang off the crossbar and the puck landed right in the crease.

Duclair equalized for the visitors on a short-handed breakaway two minutes later. The Sens winger stole the puck from former Coyotes teammate Max Domi at the blue line, skated the length of the ice and beat Price with a pretty move.

“We wanted to end this pre-season on a good note,” said Duclair, who will get minutes on the penalty kill this season. “Regular season is in a few days. This was almost our full lineup in this game. Still a few guys that needed to prove themselves. A great effort by both teams.”

The Sens open their regular season on the road against the Maple Leafs on Wednesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 28, 2019.

Kelsey Patterson, The Canadian Press

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