OTTAWA – On a historical night for the Montreal Canadiens, the Ottawa Senators’ depth players stole the show.
Mike Cammalleri scored the Canadiens the 20,000 goal in the franchise’s storied history on Monday, but goals from Peter Regin, Ryan Shannon Chris Neil and Chris Campoli led banged-up Ottawa to 4-2 victory.
The Senators (20-15-4) have won both their games since losing captain Daniel Alfredsson to a shoulder injury in a Dec. 23 game against Pittsburgh. Forwards Jason Spezza and Nick Foligno are also sidelined.
With three of their top forwards out, the Ottawa Senators’ less heralded players have been forced to step up.
So far, they’ve done the job.
“These are two pretty big wins in our division,” said Ottawa goalie Pascal Leclaire, who made 29 saves for his 10th win of the season. “They’re our best guys, no doubt about that and we’re aware of that, but we’ve got to step it up and make sure we play well while those guys are away. It was a great team effort.”
Cammalleri scored the milestone goal for the Canadiens to open the scoring.
Both the puck and the stick will be going to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
“It’s pretty special to be part of the history,” said Cammalleri. “It’s not the result we wanted though.”
Benoit Pouliot also scored for the Canadiens (19-18-3), while Jaroslav Halak faced 27 shots and saw his four-game winning streak ended.
The energy in Scotiabank Place was palpable even during the warm-up and the 20,369 on hand weren’t disappointed.
From the drop of the puck the two teams played an intense game, feeding off the crowd’s energy.
The Canadiens got things started as Cammalleri, with his first goal in seven games, fired a shot that made it through the legs of two Senators before beating Leclaire. Montreal made it 2-0 midway through the period as Pouliot managed to get a shot off as he fell to the ice.
“We didn’t start so hot,” said Ottawa’s Mike Fisher. “We made some adjustments and started to play our game and stuck with it and found a way to win. It was a huge win for us.”
The Senators finally managed to give their fans something to cheer about as Regin jumped on a rebound in front of the net and beat Halak to cut the lead in half.
The Senators tied the game late in the second period on a power-play goal as Shannon beat Halak over the left shoulder with a shot from the point.
“With the injuries we have right now there are certain guys who are going to step up to fill those roles,” said Shannon. “There are a lot of guys that want to fill those roles and we’re doing a good job so far.”
Ottawa appeared to take the lead in the final minute of play, but referee Kerry Fraser waved off an apparent goal due to interference with Halak.
Television replays suggested there was no contact, leaving Senators coach Cory Clouston infuriated with the call.
Neil made up for the lost goal by scoring in the third to give the Senators a 3-2 lead, but this one also needed to be reviewed.
Fisher beat Marc-Andre Bergeron to the puck along the side boards and took a shot that went off the crossbar where Neil struck it in midair to beat Halak. This time the goal was allowed.
The Canadiens had a number of good chances in the third, but Leclaire made some huge saves to hold on to the lead.
Campoli scored an empty-net goal to seal the win.
Brian Gionta returned to Montreal’s lineup after missing the last 21 games with a broken foot. He finished the game with an assist on Pouliot’s goal.
“It felt pretty good to be back,” said Gionta. “We would have liked the win obviously. When we have a team on a rope we have to find a way to bury them. We had our opportunities and their goalie came up pretty big for them.”
Carey Price required some stitches early in the first after taking a puck to the side of the head as he sat at the end of the bench. Leclaire, who missed 15 games after taking a puck to the face, was surprised to learn of the incident, but pleased to learn it wasn’t serious.
Notes: Ottawa was without Alfredsson (shoulder, 4-6 weeks), C Spezza (knee, 6 weeks) and Foligno (lower body, out indefinitely). D Erik Karlsson was a healthy scratch for the second straight game… Montreal was without D Roman Hamrlik (knee, day-today) and D Paul Mara. RW Georges Laraque was a healthy scratch.