OTTAWA — Canadiens defenceman Nathan Beaulieu attempted to make up for lost time as he faced the Ottawa Senators Wednesday night.
Beaulieu was making his first exhibition appearance and Michel Therrien gave him ample opportunity to show what he could do. Beaulieu, who suffered a shoulder injury in the first few days of training camp, played a game high 26:31 and was one of a handful of players who finished on the plus side of the plus-minus figures on a night when the Canadiens absorbed a 5-2 defeat.
The result should have been expected because, with the exception of Jason Spezza and goaltender Craig Anderson, the Senators had a veteran-packed lineup. By contrast, the Canadiens took a final look at many of the youngsters in their camp.
“Our plan all along was to use this game to look at the youngsters and what it’s going to take for them to play at the NHL pace so they know what they have to do when they go down (to Hamilton),” said Therrien, who plans to use his veterans Thursday night when the Senators visit the Bell Centre for a rematch.
Beaulieu, who was the Canadiens’ first-round draft pick in 2011, came into camp with the goal of sticking in the NHL. That appears unlikely because of the injury, but he’s hoping that he’ll get another look in the final exhibition game.
“I thought I played well,” said Beaulieu. “The result wasn’t what we wanted, but for my first game, not playing for a couple of weeks, with the intensity out there and a pretty good (Ottawa) lineup, I was pretty satisfied.”
Beaulieu said the young Canadiens settled down after Magnus Nygren gave Montreal a 1-0 lead early in the first period “but they got some goals and shut it down. They had a good squad and it was pretty intense, but I thought I adapted well.”
Beaulieu said his shoulder held up well in contact, although he felt the injury made him tentative early in the game. But he became more comfortable as the game went on.
“I took some pretty good hits and it held up better than I thought,” said Beaulieu, who was credited with a couple of hits and a blocked shot.
“Talking with management, puck moving is a big thing, moving the puck early,” said Beaulieu. “I was a fresh guy out there. I haven’t played and there are guys who have played three, four, five, even six games. I thought I moved my feet pretty well.”
Jarred Tinordi, the defenceman who is on the bubble, played nearly 20 minutes. He has appeared in all six exhibition games and he stood out with three hits and four blocked shots. It’s likely that he’ll be among the survivors when Therrien makes his next cuts Thursday morning.
Michael Bournival’s immediate future doesn’t appear as bright. He said he played his worst game of the exhibition schedule, but he may have been his own worst critic. He won nine of his 15 faceoffs and didn’t seem to be bothered by the pace.
Peter Budaj went all the way in goal and stopped 27 of 32 shots but earned praise from Therrien.
”He battled hard,” said Therrien. “We didn’t have much experience out there on defence and he had to battle all night.”
The Canadiens’ go-to line had Lars Eller between Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk, and they managed only one shot, although Gallagher and Galchenyuk each hit a post.
“I had a run like a few years ago when I kept hitting posts but we had some chances,” said Gallagher. “In the end, we just made too many mistakes.”
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