MONTREAL — When Ryan Poehling stepped onto the Bell Centre ice for the first time since his record-setting game last year, all the memories came rushing back.
The Montreal Canadiens prospect made history in his NHL debut in the final game of last season, scoring three goals and then the shootout winner in a 6-5 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was the franchise’s best NHL debut since 1943.
Five months later, the 20-year-old was back in the Canadiens home building for an intrasquad scrimmage at training camp on Sunday afternoon, which Team Red won 5-4 in a shootout over Team White.
“It’s hard not to (think about it),” said Poehling, who had one assist for Team Red. “It might happen every time. I mean it’s a special place. To do what I did makes it even more special. I think that’s going to be with me for the rest of my life every time I step on that ice.”
Poehling Not Guaranteed Lineup Spot
With Claude Julien’s first three lines likely already set in stone, it won’t be easy for one of the young players like Poehling to crack the Canadiens lineup ahead of the Oct. 3 season opener against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Forwards Nick Suzuki, Nate Thompson, Nick Cousins, Charles Hudon, Matthew Peca, Jordan Weal, Michael McCarron and Poehling all have a shot at the fourth line.
But none of those players really stepped up in the hour-long scrimmage in front of roughly 15,000 fans at the Bell Centre. Though none looked out of place, either. Thompson and Weal scored, Cousins and Poehling had an assist, while the others were left off the scoresheet.
“I thought it went pretty well,” said Peohling, Montreal’s first pick (25th overall) in the 2017 draft. “You’re playing with new guys every day, so it takes a while to get adjusted. But my line adjusted pretty well and we played a little better in the second half and in overtime too we did a good job getting pucks to the net and creating turnovers.”
The score was tied 2-2 after the first of two 30-minute periods.
The Reds took a 3-2 lead through Mike Reilly’s shot off Poehling’s face-off win before the Whites tied it up again with Thompson beating backup goalie Keith Kinkaid from the crease at 22:30.
With 1:30 left on the clock, Weal gave Team White a 4-3 lead — their first of the game — but Jeff Petry sent the scrimmage to overtime with a nifty dangle on a breakaway in the dying seconds.
Paul Byron went top shelf on Cayden Primeau in the shootout to give Team Red the victory.
“We’re ramping it up to the start of the season and everyone here is a skilled player and really talented,” said Suzuki, who led the OHL’s Guelph Storm to the Memorial Cup in May. “The speed and strength of everybody is huge and I think I can keep up. I gained weight and feel a lot stronger on my feet. Coming against these big guys, you need that.”
Laval Rocket forward Alex Belzile got the Reds on the board first at 7:30 of the first period on a cross-crease feed from Petry.
Jonathan Drouin tied the game at 13:30, beating Charlie Lindgren on a rebound off a point shot from David Sklenicka.
Following a Shea Weber penalty, Team Red regained the lead through Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s penalty shot goal at 23:45 — a top-corner slap shot that blew past Carey Price. Kotkaniemi had missed a penalty shot two minutes earlier.
“Did you see when I spoke to him (Price) before the second one? I told him to give me one please,” said the 19-year-old Kotkaniemi. “And he did it. Thank you Carey. I think he gave me that one.”
With 20 seconds remaining in the first half-hour, Josh Brook scored the 2-2 equalizer in a goalmouth scramble.
Both teams changed goalies after 30 minutes of play, with Primeau replacing Price and off-season acquisition Kinkaid in for Lindgren.
Montreal’s first of seven pre-season games is against the New Jersey Devils at the Bell Centre on Monday.
“Summer was long and it’s finally good to get things going,” said Kotkaniemi. “All the boys have been waiting for a long time. We’re finally here.”
Notes: Forty-three players were dressed for the annual scrimmage. … The Red versus White intrasquad game made its debut in 2013.
Kelsey Patterson, The Canadian Press