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Canadiens rookies beat Leafs in opening game of tournament

TORONTO — Thomas Ebbing, who scored only three goals in 35 games last season at Michigan State, scored twice Friday night to lead the Canadiens to a 5-2 win over the Maple Leafs in the opening game of a three-team rookie tournament at Ricoh Coliseum.

Ebbing opened the scoring for Montreal when he beat Finn Kazimir Kaskisuo at 8:07 of the first period and he was one of four Montreal players to score in the third period as the Canadiens came back from a 2-1 deficit. Ebbing has an AHL contract to play in Laval. 

“One of the things I worked on this summer was my shot, but tonight I found myself in the right place at the right time,”said Ebbing.

Will Bitten, a 2016 draft choice who is ticketed for a return to the OHL Hamilton Bulldogs, pulled the Canadiens even at 1:25 of the third period when he scored off the rush, and Alexandre Alain, who is on a tryout after playing for Blainville-Boisbriand last season, scored what proved to be the winning g0al at 3:28. Ebbing scored his second of the night at 7:59. Daniel Audette, the son of former NHL player Donald Audette added a power-play goal at 11:02 with Slovak Martin Reway picking up the assist. In addition to his goal, Audette played a solid defensive game. 

Reway was playing his first game in 16 months after missing all of last season with a heart ailment.  

“My legs were tired, but I expected that,” said Reway. “I haven’t played for more than a year but I know it’s going to get better every day.” 

“There were a couple of times he came back to the bench and he was tired but even then you could see that he has skills and vision, things that you can’t teach,”said Martin Lapointe, the Canadiens director of player personnel.

The Leafs picked up the pace in the second period when they outshot Montreal 16-9 and scored two late goals to take a 2-1 lead. Latvian Martins Dzierkals took a drop pass from Russian Vladimir Bobylev and scored from the slot to tie the score at 16:58 and Carl Grundstrom, a Swede who joined the Marlies for the playoff last season, scored a power-play goal at 18:29.

Jeremiah Addison went one-on-one with Kaskisuo in the second period but was unable to get the puck under the goalie’s pads. 

Michael McNiven, who was the top goaltender in Canadian junior hockey last season, made 34 saves for the win and also earned the second assist on Bitten’s goal. 

McNiven, who will be the backup Saturday night as Antoine Samuel gets the start against the Ottawa Senators, said he enjoys playing the puck.

“If I can make a pass to start the rush, we have a chance to surprise the other guys,” said McNiven. 

Michael Pezzetta, a sixth-round draft pick in 2016, scored a technical against Keaton Middleton even though he gave away our inches to the Leafs defenceman. Middleton lost all interest in fighting after Pezzetta tagged him with a right hand.

The Leafs’ Mason Marchment, the son of former NHL player Bryan Marchment, showed a willingness to throw his weight around. Marchment, who spent most of last season in the ECHL, caught Addison with his head down in the first period and was foiled by McNiven on a good scoring chance.