By Tristan D’Amours, The Canadian Press
Brad Lambert missed the first week of the Winnipeg Jets’ training camp due to injury but came back to impress in his debut.
The 30th overall pick in the 2022 draft picked up two points including his first goal in a Jets uniform. Down 3-2 to the Montreal Canadiens in the third period, Lambert grabbed the puck after a defensive mishap by Evgenii Dadonov and freed himself from two Habs players to score the equalizer in the building he was drafted in just a few months ago.
Nate Schmidt later scored the game-winning goal with just 18 seconds remaining to lift Winnipeg to a 4-3 victory on Thursday at Bell Centre.
“It was a great feeling, obviously. A great atmosphere. I’m just really lucky to get this opportunity to play,” Lambert said. “It’s just an exhibition game but, you know, it’s still the NHL. It’s something you dream about and the atmosphere was unbelievable.”
The Jets were up 2-1 in the third period before conceding the two consecutive power-play goals after a Kyle Capobianco four-minute high sticking penalty.
Head coach Rick Bowness said that Lambert’s willingness to apply pressure in the offensive zone created the needed momentum and was a testament to how he wants his team to operate going forward.
“We want to pressure the puck, that’s exactly how we want to play,” Bowness said. “Until they get the puck, (we) want to be right there in their faces and that’s a good example of it. Then, obviously, it’s a pretty good shot by the kid.”
“I’m just trying to take advantage of every opportunity I get to go out there and play my game,” Lambert humbly added. “I work my (butt) off, that’s just all I’m trying to do.”
Evan Polei and Cole Maier also scored for the Jets in the victory.
Brendan Gallagher and Cole Caufield both picked up one goal and one assist in the loss. Kaiden Guhle scored Montreal’s opening marker while Christian Dvorak added two assists.
Jake Allen allowed one goal and made 10 saves in 30 minutes of play. Cayden Primeau made 10 saves and allowed two goals after entering the game in place of Allen.
Jets netminder David Rittich stopped nine of ten shots in two periods of play. Arvid Holm was between the pipes in the third period, surrendering two goals and making 13 saves.
Guhle continued to impress in pre-season action, this time alongside David Savard on the Canadiens’ first defensive pairing.
“He has a very good progression,” said Montreal head coach Martin St. Louis. “He’s an engaged player every time he’s on the ice, whether it’s in practice or during a game. He scored a nice goal tonight.”
The 20-year-old broke the ice in the first period after Kirby Dach left him the puck to beat Rittich with a swift wrist shot from the right faceoff circle. St. Louis thought that Guhle adapted very well thus far to the jump from the OHL to an NHL training camp.
“I find that the game isn’t fast for him, in his head,” St. Louis said. “I remember when I was young and I was playing my first NHL camps I found that it was going so fast in my head that it took a bit of time for the game to slow down for me to really show my attributes.
“I find that the way he reads the game at the moment, and I know it will be different when the regular season starts, but sometimes players need to slowly get used to the speed. They need to see the fastball a few times before hitting it but you can see that he’s adapting pretty quickly.”
The Jets responded a few minutes later when Polei tipped Capobianco’s low shot from the point to even the score.
Maier took it upon himself to give Winnipeg its first lead of the night in the second period. The centre rounded the net and lodged the puck under Primeau’s skate and into the back of the net.
The Canadiens were 0-for-5 on the power play until Capobianco’s costly high sticking penalty. On a four-on-three advantage, Gallagher struck the puck in mid-air to beat Holm and tie the game at 2-2 in the third.
Montreal regained its lead on the very same power play when Caufield sent a wrister past Holm.
Winnipeg equalized with an individual effort from Lambert. The centre took advantage of a Evgenii Dadonov defensive mishap and despite being defended by two Canadiens players, managed to take a shot that stunned Primeau and tied the game at 3-3.
Just over three minutes later, Schmidt left no opportunity for the game to go to overtime when he wound up a slap shot from the point to send his team home with the win.
NOTE: The Canadiens cut Riley Kidney and Joshua Roy from pre-season camp following the game and loaned them back to their junior clubs.