Sheldon Souray’s team-leading 17th goal of the season was the first of three in a span of 2:24 in the second period that propelled the Canadiens to a 3-1 win Monday over the Ottawa Senators.
“That’s why guys were so frustrated Saturday, because we can play the way we did (Monday),” said Souray, who was front and centre in criticizing his teammates after a lacklustre 4-1 road loss to Toronto on Saturday. “When we play like this, and then we have a night that’s so off it’s really noticeable.
“That’s what’s frustrating, when we put the effort in we get results like we did (Monday). Winning’s a whole lot more fun than losing, but it takes hard work.”
Mark Streit and Tomas Plekanec also scored for the Canadiens (28-18-5).
“Everybody worked hard, and they got the result,” said head coach Guy Carbonneau. “That’s what we have to remember, that was fun.
“It was hard, but it was fun because we won.”
Chris Phillips scored for the Senators (29-21-2), who lost for only the second time in nine games.
“In the second period we were doing things we’ve been trying not to do,” Senators head coach Bryan Murray said. “They took advantage of what we gave them.”
The game was played after a 48-minute ceremony to retire the No. 29 of Hall of Fame goalie Ken Dryden. After a slow start, the Canadiens gave their former goaltender something to cheer about.
“Both teams were ready to play and excited to play on a night like tonight,” Murray said.
David Aebischer made 26 saves for the Canadiens, none bigger than a flashy glove grab on Jason Spezza 11:02 into the third to maintain Montreal’s two-goal lead.
“I usually don’t play this way,” Aebischer said of the stop. “I think I looked a little bit too much (like) Ken Dryden there, but I made the save and that’s what was important.”
Ray Emery made 25 saves in his eighth straight start for the Senators.
The win moved Montreal past Ottawa into fourth in the Eastern Conference with 61 points, one ahead of the Senators and three ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Canadiens have a game in hand on both the Senators and the Hurricanes.
“It’s definitely a race,” Phillips said. “It was an important game, but we’ve got a game (Tuesday) night, and we have to regroup pretty quickly.”
Trailing 1-0 midway through the second, the Canadiens exploded for three goals in less than three minutes for a 3-1 lead.
The Canadiens took advantage of a hooking penalty to Chris Neil when Souray scored his 14th power-play goal of the year at 10:55, just moments after Emery had stoned Montreal’s Alex Kovalev from in tight.
Streit made it 2-1 at 12:01 when Andrei Markov sent him in alone with a brilliant breakaway pass from his own end. Streit deked Emery between the legs for his fourth of the season.
“I’m a defenceman, so I try to make passes like that sometimes and I knew he would try it,” said Streit, who has been playing admirably on the fourth line as a winger much of the season. “I looked him in the eye, he looked me in the eye and he made a magnificent play.”
Souray took a high-sticking penalty behind the play in his own end just 31 seconds after the Streit goal, but it was the Canadiens who capitalized, scoring their league-leading 13th short-handed goal.
Wade Redden had trouble handling a Canadiens clearing attempt at the blue-line. Plekanec pounced on the bouncing puck, held off Tom Preissing to go in alone on Emery and put a backhand in the top corner for his 10th goal of the season at 13:19.
Phillips gave Ottawa a 1-0 lead, lofting a soft wrist shot from the blue-line that made it through a crowd and past Aebischer at 0:52 on the Senators’ first shot of the game.
It was the third time this season the Senators scored within the first minute of a period.
Notes: Senators D Anton Volchenkov played in his 200th career NHL game . . . Canadiens winger Alexander Perezhogin was a healthy scratch for the second time in eight games. Perezhogin has one goal and one assist in his last 22 games played . . . Canadiens C Radek Bonk’s wife gave birth Sunday to the couple’s second child, a girl named Kennedy . . . The loss dropped the Senators record in Monday games to 0-2-2. It is the only day of the week where the Senators are winless this season.