MONTREAL – The red-hot Montreal Canadiens turned out to be the perfect tonic for the slumping Ottawa Senators.
Peter Regin and Erik Karlsson scored and Brian Elliot made 29 saves as the Senators ended a five-game losing streak with a 2-0 victory over the Canadiens on Monday night.
It was Ottawa’s fifth win in six meetings with Montreal this season as the Senators took sole possession of fifth place in the NHL Eastern conference, two points clear of the Canadiens and the idle Philadelphia Flyers.
“It was a huge game points-wise,” said Elliot after his fourth shutout of the season and fifth of his career. “And we needed to get back to the way we should be playing.”
Ottawa (38-30-5) returns home after a three-game road trip to face Philadelphia (37-30-5), which has one game in hand, on Tuesday night. The Canadiens (36-30-7) ended a string of seven games with at least one point.
It was only Ottawa’s second win in 10 games (2-7-1) since the Olympics, while the Canadiens suffered just their second setback (7-2-1) in regulation since the break. Montreal was coming off a 3-2 shootout loss in Toronto on Saturday night.
“I liked a lot of things,” said Ottawa coach Cory Clouston. “We got good goaltending, our penalty killing was outstanding.
“It was a tough game, like a playoff game. There were good opportunities both ways.”
Canadiens coach Jacques Martin saw it from the opposite perspective.
His team that had played so well since the break were scattered across the ice instead of playing in tight, five-man units. Their struggling power play went 0-for-5 and they wasted a strong 25-save effort from Jaroslav Halak.
“The special teams were the difference,” Martin said. “We didn’t create any goals or any momentum on the power play while they went 1-for-2 on theirs. And their goalie played well. That was the difference.”
Elliot gave credit to his defence, which blocked several Montreal shots and allowed the Canadiens little room to move in front of the net.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s 7-6 or a shutout, it’s the win that counts,” said Elliot.
Another difference was Karlsson. The rookie defenceman was minus-4 in a 5-4 loss Saturday in Dallas, but bounced back with a goal, an assist and a plus-1 effort in Montreal. His defence partner Andy Sutton was also sharp, getting credit for five blocked shots.
The teams combined for only 11 shots in a sloppy opening period, but Ottawa got the only goal, as Regin went to the net to tip a pass from Karlsson past Halak at 10:15.
Regin was promoted to the Senators’ top line with Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza in place of Matt Cullen, although it was second-line winger Mike Foligno who got the demotion to the fourth line after being sent off twice for minor penalties early in the game.
The pace picked up in a scoreless second, but both Halak and Elliot were sharp.
Montreal’s Travis Moen left the game at 10:41 when he was cut on the forehead as Cullen’s skate came up after falling head over heels after a check in the corner. A team spokesman said Moen suffered a laceration to the face but did not need to go to hospital.
Martin said he would be examined again on Tuesday.
“It seems there was no damage to the eye,” Martin said.
The Senators scored on their first full power-play chance at 8:17 of the third when Karlsson’s high wrist shot from the point sailed through heavy traffic in front of Halak for the rookie’s second goal of the season.
The Canadiens play in Buffalo on Wednesday and return home to meet Florida on Thursday.
Notes: There was talk of Mike Cammalleri and Marc-Andre Bergeron coming back from injuries Monday, but the Canadiens opted to have them see a doctor one more time. Both may be back Wednesday in Buffalo. … It was the 100th time the Canadiens faced the Senators. Montreal leads the series (47-45-8). … Milan Michalek, who saw a doctor Monday about his sore left leg, Shean Donovan, Filip Kuba (lower body) and Ryan Shannon didn’t play. AHL call-up Zack Smith got into the lineup for Ottawa.