OTTAWA – Montreal goaltender Carey Price knew he needed a big game against a tenacious opponent.
Price made 33 saves, including 15 in the third period, as the Canadiens held off the Ottawa Senators 2-1 on Friday.
The Senators have had a knack for rallying in the third period to win in the early season. After Zack Smith scored a short-handed goal a minute into the third to cut Montreal’s lead to one, the Habs needed a monster effort from Price to avoid becoming another one of Ottawa’s surprise victims.
“They’re a desperate team, at least that’s the way they play,” said Price. “A lot of their wins have come in the third period because they really force you in the third and I thought we played really well.”
The Canadiens, coming off a six-day break, were anxious to pick up where they left off on a three-game winning streak.
“It was huge,” said Canadiens defenceman Josh Gorges. “We knew it was going to be a tough game. I thought we had a lot of jump in our game.
“We were on pucks, jumping and maybe sat back a little in the third trying to protect the lead instead of going after the next goal, but it was a gritty effort by all the guys.”
Erik Cole and Andrei Kostitsyn scored in the second period for Montreal (5-5-2), while Craig Anderson made 24 saves in net for Ottawa (7-7-0).
Montreal opened the scoring at 13:55 of the second period. Ottawa failed to clear a bouncing puck and Michael Cammalleri found Cole, who beat Anderson with a quick wrist shot.
“We did some good things,” said Cole. “We got a couple good goals on some real good forecheck and back pressure opportunities … but at the end of the day Carey held down the fort.”
Another turnover led to Montreal’s second goal. When Ottawa defenceman Erik Karlsson looked to make a pass up the middle, but instead put the puck on Lars Eller’s stick, who made a quick pass to Kostitsyn to make the score 2-0.
“I was just trying to make a play,” said Karlsson. “Sometimes that happens. It’s a misread and it’s no one’s fault. It’s just the way it goes sometimes and unfortunately they scored on it and we tried to get it back, but unfortunately we didn’t.”
The Senators had a six-game winning streak and have now lost two straight games.
“I don’t think we came up to our potential this game,” said Karlsson. “We didn’t do the things that we’ve done when we’ve been successful and we just have to try to get back there and prove that we’re a good hockey team again.”
A great effort by Erik Condra cut the Montreal lead in half while the Senators were killing a penalty early in the third. Condra carried the puck in from centre along the side boards and fed Smith, who beat Price from in close at 1:07.
The Senators had a chance to tie it late when Montreal defenceman Josh Gorges was called for holding with 1:31 left in regulation. But, with Anderson on the bench in favour of a sixth attacker, Ottawa failed to muster any real scoring chances in front of Price.
A scoreless first period saw the Canadiens outshoot the Senators 12-4 as Anderson kept his team in the game.
The Senators had a scare late in the third when Anderson struggled to get up after he was hit by Max Pacioretty, who was initially pushed into the Ottawa goalie by Sergei Gonchar.
After the game Anderson admitted that things could have been a lot worse and felt fortunate that he was able to stay in the game.
The Senators host the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night, while the Canadiens head out to New York to take on the Rangers.
Notes: The loss snapped Ottawa’s four-game home ice winning streak. … The Senators were without RW Daniel Alfredsson (concussion, indefinitely), C Peter Regin (shoulder, 6-8 weeks), D Matt Carkner (knee, indefinitely). D David Rundblad and C Zenon Konopka were a healthy scratch for Ottawa. … The Canadiens were without D Andrei Markov (knee), D Chris Campoli (hamstring), C Scott Gomez (upper body) and C Ryan White (groin). D Alexei Emelin was a healthy scratch for Montreal.