OTTAWA – Something had to give Thursday night when two slumping teams met at Scotiabank Place and Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau was happy to see it wasn’t the Canadiens making way to the Ottawa Senators.
The Canadiens, losers of three of their previous four games and with just two victories in the past seven contests, rallied from a goal down to beat the Senators 3-2 in shootout. Alex Tanguay scored the deciding goal after Andrei Markov’s late marker forced extra time.
“It’s a huge win for us, obviously,” said Carbonneau, who’d called his players out after a dismal 2-1 loss Tuesday night in Carolina against the Hurricanes.
Asked if Thursday’s effort was more to his liking, the coach replied: “By a mile.”
“Both teams were kind of struggling lately and everything was left on the ice,” he said. “Both teams fought hard and played well defensively. I was just happy we were able to come back at the end.”
Ottawa’s Dany Heatley and Montreal’s Saku Koivu traded first-period goals and Nick Foligno and Markov did the same in the third in an entertaining game before a sold-out crowd of 20,475 at Scotiabank Place.
In the shootout, Jason Spezza beat Canadiens netminder Carey Price on the first attempt in shootout, but Price went on to stop Daniel Alfredsson, Jarkko Ruutu and Antoine Vermette.
Alex Auld turned away Alex Kovalev and Koivu at the other end, but in between he couldn’t stop Markov and that allowed Tanguay to decide it in the shootout’s fourth round with a nifty backhand move.
“It’s a move I used to practise in Colorado, I haven’t brought it out in a game, obviously,” said Tanguay, who skated in backward on Auld before slipping the puck between his pads.
“Vermette missed his shot so I was going in and the goalie makes about 70 or 75 per cent of the saves, I’m not sure of the exact stats on penalty shots, so you have to sometimes take chances. On my backhand, if he opens his five-hole, I can shoot it there, and if he doesn’t, I can always take it back to my forehand and try to get it over his pad. Fortunately for us, the puck found its way through his pads.”
Sergei Kostitsyn had two assists and Price made 23 saves for the Canadiens (11-5-2).
“I thought this was another step in the right direction for our hockey team,” Price said. “We’re starting to bond as a group.”
Alexandre Picard added a pair of helpers and Auld stopped 19 shots for the Senators (6-9-4).
The loss extended Ottawa’s winless slide to six games and the Senators haven’t won since Nov. 6. Despite a talented lineup of shooters, the Senators fell to 0-3 in shootouts on the year and 7-20 all-time since the format was introduced.
“It’s not fun to lose that way,” Auld said. “We’ve got to look at the fact that we got a big point. Obviously it’s tough, but we’ve got to keep looking forward.”
The Senators were also forced to settle for a point after a strong effort on Monday night in New York against the Rangers resulted in a 2-1 shootout defeat.
“We’ve just got to stick with it,” Auld said. “We’re preaching that. We believe we’re doing the right things and if we build on those things, we’ll be even better.”
Both teams were without key players because of injuries.
The Senators learned Wednesday they’d be without forwards Mike Fisher and Chris Neil for the next few weeks because of knee injuries, resulting in the NHL season debut of centre Cody Bass, while Montreal defenceman Mike Komisarek sat out his fourth straight game with a shoulder problem.
When the teams met Nov. 11 at the Bell Centre, Price stopped all 28 shots he faced in a 4-0 victory. In fact, dating back to April 1 of last season, he hadn’t given up a goal to the Senators the past two times he faced them.
The opening 90 seconds gave an indication that it would be an exciting night when Auld stopped Kovalev on a 2-on-1 break then Guillaume Latendresse from in close. Price robbed Heatley with a glove save on a 2-on-1 at the other end and Latendresse was run over by Senators defenceman Jason Smith.
Heatley opened the scoring at the 4:21 mark of the first when a point shot from Alexandre Picard was blocked by Markov, but fell in the slot for Heatley to score on a chip shot over a fallen Price, but Koivu got that one back for the Canadiens during a power play later in the period to make it 1-1.
The pace slowed in the second, where Montreal caught a break late in the period to remain on even ground.
With a delayed tripping call coming to Kovalev, Senators right-winger Shean Donovan circled behind the Canadiens’ net and threw the puck out front, where Ottawa’s Anton Volchenkov shot it past Price. However, the goal was immediately waved off by referee Don VanMassenhoven, who indicated a slight touch on the puck by Montreal’s Francis Bouillon off of Donovan’s stick was enough to rule the play dead.
That brought a chorus of boos from the home fans, but their mood changed early in the third when, during another power play, Price failed to cover a rebound and Foligno dove to poke the puck through his pads for a 2-1 Ottawa advantage.
The goal, his third of the season, was his first since Oct. 18 and ended a 13-game goalless drought for the sophomore left-winger.
“It was a hard shot for (Price) to see,” Foligno said. “I dove for it and knew it was under his pad. It would have been nice if it helped us win, but we’ve just go to keep working hard.”
When the Canadiens looked to be in danger of dropping a third straight game, however, Markov beat Auld from the slot with 4:24 remaining in regulation time.
“It was a pretty tight game, it was a fast-paced game from both sides and both sides were desperate to get a win,” Tanguay said. “It was a huge relief for us. Andrei has played some great hockey for us. The puck hasn’t gone in as much as he’d like, but he made an outstanding shot there and fortunately for us that puck found its way into the net.”
Notes: The Canadiens went into the game having won the previous three meetings between the teams, but the Senators had won eight of the past 12 overall and 10 of 13 at Scotiabank Place. … Ottawa scratched defencemen Christoph Schubert and Luke Richardson while forwards Mathieu Dandenault and Maxim Lapierre also didn’t dress for the Canadiens. It was a high hit on Lapierre in the previous game between the teams that resulted in a two-game suspension for Ruutu. …The Senators welcome former defenceman Wade Redden back to Ottawa for the first time Saturday when they play host to the Rangers. ….The Canadiens return home to meet the Boston Bruins that night when former goaltending great Patrick Roy will have his jersey retired.