OTTAWA – A rowdy Scotiabank Place crowd and a tenacious Senators squad still couldn’t beat the injury-riddled Montreal Canadiens.
Still missing key starters Carey Price, Saku Koivu and Alex Tanguay, Alexei Kovalev scored in regulation and in the shootout to boost Montreal past Ottawa 5-4 on Saturday.
Riding a two-game winning streak, Senators rookie netminder Brian Elliot was beaten by Kovalev and Maxim Lapierre in his first ever shootout.
Jason Spezza shot wide on his attempt, while Daniel Alfredsson was stopped by Canadiens goalie Jaroslav Halak.
Andrei Kostitsyn, Matt D’Agostini and Tom Kostopoulos also scored for Montreal (27-1-6) in regulation, which has now won six of seven. Halak made 28 saves for his 11th win of the season.
Down 4-2 in the third, Ottawa (15-22-6) battled back with Dany Heatley’s second of the night and Mike Fisher’s goal with under two minutes to play to send the game to overtime in front of 20,413 at Scotiabank Place .
After the game, Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau said despite blowing a two-goal lead, he was happy to get out of Ottawa with the win.
“For sure we would have like to have won it in the third period,” said Carbonneau. “But we still found a way to win despite the number of injured players that we have. We still seem to be doing some good things as a team.”
Chris Kelly had Ottawa’s other goal while Elliott faced 32 shots including breakaways from Tomas Plekanec and Robert Lang in taking the loss.
Senators players were upbeat with their performance in battling back against one of the Eastern Conference’s top teams.
“It’s a good sign,” said Fisher. “We didn’t give up, we battled back. We gave ourselves a chance to win and we got a point.”
Ottawa could have won the game in overtime as Spezza and Heatley swarmed Halak’s net only to come up empty.
“We look like a different team than we did maybe a few weeks ago,” said Jason Spezza.
“Guys are battling pretty hard and I think that comes with a little bit of confidence and being a little more sure with the puck. We’re starting to come around as a club and we’ve just got to try and get some wins together and hopefully climb up the standings.”
Senators coach Craig Hartsburg was quick to praise Elliot’s performance in defeat.
“He’d like to have the one back,” said Hartsburg of the Canadiens fourth goal. “But I think he gave us a chance to win the game.”
Montreal opened the scoring on a two-man advantage just shy of the eight-minute mark of the first period with Kovalev beating Elliott through the legs for his 12th of the season.
Kelly tied the game four minutes later on a pass from Jarkko Ruutu to beat Halak shortside.
With just under seven minutes remaining in the period, Andrei Kostitsyn made it 2-1 after Elliot only got a piece of his shot.
Elliott kept the game close in the second period before D’Agostini was able to beat him high stick side.
Heatley scored his 18th of the season at the five-minute mark of the third beating Halak stick-side as the Senators broke in on a three-on-one to make it 3-2.
Montreal made it 4-2 at the 11-minute mark when Kostopoulos’ shot managed to just get under Elliott’s right pad. Just 33 seconds later Heatley replied for Ottawa with his second of the game before Fisher tied it late.
Notes: Ottawa D Brendan Bell was a healthy scratch for the third straight game. D Anton Volchenkov upper body injury (day-to-day) and C Cody Bass (shoulder, indefinite) missed the game. Along with G Price (lower body, day-to-day), C Koivu (foot, day-to-day), and LW Tanguay (shoulder, indefinite), the Canadiens were without RW Georges Laraque (groin, indefinite), LW Christopher Higgins (shoulder, indefinite), RW Mathieu Dandenault (arm, indefinite), C Kyle Chipchura was a healthy scratch.