MONTREAL – Not much has gone right for the Montreal Canadiens this season, except when they face the Ottawa Senators.
David Desharnais scored in regulation and again in a shootout as the Canadiens defeated the Senators 3-2 on Wednesday night to run their record for the season against their regional rival to 3-0-1.
”We just play well against them,” said Montreal goaltender Carey Price, who has been in the net for all four meetings. ”We’re a pretty skilled team and so are they.”
Desharnais was the only scorer in the shootout while Price stopped all three Ottawa attempts, including a diving poke check on Milan Michalek.
The Senators need to find an answer to the Canadiens soon as they play host to Montreal on Friday night. And they face them again March 23 in Montreal, the third meeting of the teams in a 10-day span.
”We were happy to get a point on the road,” said Senators coach Paul MacLean. ”It was a little close to the vest on their part and on ours, but this team doesn’t bring the best out in us, for some reason.
”We have another opportunity on Friday to find a solution. We don’t seem to be able to skate like we do when we’re successful. We have to find a solution to that.”
Erik Cole also scored for Montreal (28-32-11), which is 3-0-1 in its last four games but remains well out of playoff contention.
Colin Greening and Erik Karlsson replied for the Senators (36-25-10), who are one point behind Northeast Division-leading Boston. The Bruins have two games in hand.
Montreal wore its white ”away” jerseys so that the Senators could get some exposure for their mostly black heritage gear, and it produced a game lacking in colour or excitement for the fans. Ottawa outshot Montreal 37-26, but few big saves were needed at either end until the shootout.
A highlight came from Cole.
After scoring on his own rebound on a rush down the right side at 13:45 of the first period, the Canadiens veteran inexplicably high-fived referee Greg Kimmerly in the midst of his celebration.
”I had no one to celebrate with,” Cole said with a laugh, calling it an ”instinctive” move.
”That was hilarious,” Price said. ”I didn’t laugh for long because they scored right after, but I think the ref was laughing too.”
When asked if the NHL may suspend Cole for making contact with an official, Price said ”You can’t suspend someone for that. It was pure comedy.”
Only 26 seconds later, Greening was at the side of the net to finish a three-way play with Michalek and Jason Spezza to tie the game.
The Canadiens took the lead 24 seconds into the third period as Desharnais was left alone on the doorstep to deflect a P.K. Subban shot past Ben Bishop.
Karlsson tied it at 11:01 as he threaded his 19th of the season through traffic and past Price from the top of the right circle. It was Karlsson’s third goal in his last two games and his 11th in 18 games since Jan. 31.
Cole’s goal was his fourth in the last three games and his 27th of the season.
The Bell Centre crowd gave a warm ovation to rearguard Andrei Markov for his first appearance on home ice in more than a year. Markov missed most of the last two seasons with knee problems.
He got 17:51 of ice time and played a strong game, although he got a scare in the second period when a Jim O’Brien shot went off his stick and hit him in the face. Markov got some quick repairs and returned to the game.
Ever the coach, Randy Cunneyworth called it ”the result of a good stick” to block the shot.
Notes: Montreal was without Alexei Emelin (upper body) and Scott Gomez (concussion), while Tomas Kaberle was absent as his girlfriend gave birth to a child. Frederic St. Denis was called up from AHL Hamilton to fill in on defence. . . Canadiens centre Tomas Plekanec missed warmup and got to the rink just before the game for what the team said was family reasons. . . Bobby Butler, Zenon Konopka and Matt Carkner didn’t dress for Ottawa. . . There were big cheers for a video tribute to former Habs captain Saku Koivu, now with Anaheim, who recently played his 1,000th NHL game.