MONTREAL – A new line combination of Jonathan Drouin, Christian Dvorak and Josh Anderson quickly gelled for the Montreal Canadiens.
Anderson score twice, Dvorak collected his first goal for Montreal and assisted on three others, and Drouin picked up a pair of assists in a 5-2 pre-season win Monday over the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs.
Drouin feels the strength of their new partnership is how their differences complement each other.
“Josh is that horse on our line that stretches the play and uses his big body around the net and puts it in,” Drouin explained.
“I’m more of a passer and feel-it-out playmaker. Christian is just a two-way forward where he knows where to go, the right areas, always in the right spots.
“After the first and second (periods), I knew where he was gonna be in the third. It’s very cool to have that after a couple of periods to already know how he’s gonna play and where he’s gonna be.”
Michael Pezzetta also scored twice for the Habs, including an empty-net goal.
The Canadiens acquired Dvorak from the Arizona Coyotes earlier this month in exchange for two picks, including a first-round selection, in next year’s draft.
Even after one pre-season game, Drouin feels their new line combo shows a lot of promise. They’ll need to convince head coach Dominique Ducharme their trio deserves to stay intact.
“The coach will decide who we’ll play with and what the lines will be,” Drouin said. “But I think we like playing together since the start of camp and if we want to keep it like that, it’s up to us to force Dominque’s hand and keep this line the way it is. We had a good first game so we need to keep it up.”
Ducharme thought the line made a good first impression in its first outing.
“They had good moments in the offensive zone,” Ducharme said. “When we were in the defensive zone or when we would lose the puck, they were good enough to work with our defencemen to be on top of the opposition.”
Jake Allen stopped all 15 shots he faced in Montreal’s net before giving way to Kevin Poulin, who turned away 20 of 22.
David Kampf with a short-handed goal and Ondrej Kase scored for Toronto. Toronto’s Jack Campbell allowed three goals on 12 shots over half a game.
Reliever Petr Mrazek turned away seven of eight shots. Mrazek denied Anderson a hat trick with a glove save late in the third period.
Defenceman Kaiden Guhle led the Habs in ice time with 23 minutes 44 seconds in his debut.
The teenager from Sherwood Park, Alta., admitted feeling nervous before the game, but Montreal’s first-round pick in 2020 kept his cool.
“Obviously there’s a little bit of nerves, but this is where you want to be,” Guhle said. “There were a bit of nerves but I was more excited than anything. I was waiting for this for about a year now, ever since I got drafted. More excited than nerves.”
Playing alongside Montreal newcomer David Savard, Guhle made an impact blocking a shot in the second period and finishing a penalty-kill shift with a body check.
“He’s physical. You can tell that he’s not scared to sacrifice himself and block a shot,” Ducharme said. “Defensively there were a lot of good things. Offensively, he was efficient with his first passes so it’s a good game from him.”
Guhle believes playing a handful of games with the AHL’s Laval Rocket before heading to the Western Hockey League last season prepared him for his first NHL pre-season game facing players like Toronto star Mitch Marner.
“Nothing really surprised me too much. I mean, obviously those guys are skilled. Guys like Marner are obviously fast and got lots of skill so I was coming in prepared for that,” Guhle said.
“It was good for me to play in Laval last year because I took those games and tried to take them into this one. It got me a little bit more prepared for this game.”
Montreal exploited the Maple Leafs’ lack of discipline over the first 16 minutes of the game. Toronto took four minors during that span. Anderson and Dvorak each scored power-play goals.
Pezzetta scored even-strength to make it 3-0 near the midway point of the second.
Poulin, who had just replaced Allen, turned the puck over to Toronto’s Kampf for an easy short-handed goal at 11:15.
Anderson produced a second power-play goal in the period.
Kase cut the deficit to two on a feed from Morgan Reilly just before the intermission, but Toronto didn’t score again in the game.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 27, 2021.