MONTREAL – The Montreal Canadiens found a way to keep their winning streak alive, and caused more misery for the struggling Ottawa Senators in the process.
Jeff Halpern, Brian Gionta and Roman Hamrlik scored in the third period as the Canadiens won their third straight game Tuesday, 4-1 over the Senators.
Meanwhile, Ottawa top scorers are slumping and Senators coach Cory Clouston is beset with reports that his job is in jeopardy.
The Canadiens let nine minutes of power play time slip away in the second period, but managed to regroup for the third.
”It’s a good feeling that we could come back like that,” said Michael Cammalleri, who scored in the first period for Montreal (18-8-2), winners of three out of four meetings with the Senators this season.
The Canadiens have at least a point in five straight games and have allowed only one goal in each of their last three.
Habs goaltender Carey Price, the NHL leader with 17 wins, was solid on the few good chances among the 28 shots he faced. Price has now allowed only one goal in each of his last five starts.
“Especially these couple of games, it’s really been all the team—I’m just in there taking up space,” said Price. ”I’ve just been taking up oxygen out there, really.”
Coach Jacques Martin liked seeing Price make the most of strong defensive play by the team.
”The key to Carey’s play is that he has been able to keep his concentration and make the saves when called upon,” said Martin. ”It’s been nice to give him good support.”
Nick Foligno scored his second of the season for Ottawa (12-15-2), which is 3-8-1 in its last 12, although the Senators had three points from their two previous games.
The woes continued for the Senators’ top guns on Tuesday.
Captain Daniel Alfredsson failed to pick up a point in an eighth consecutive game, passing the seven-game drought set in his rookie season.
Sergei Gonchar has also gone eight without a point, while Mike Fisher, Alex Kovalev and Milan Michalek saw their slumps extend to five games.
Asked to comment on his and the team’s offensive struggles, Alfredsson simply said ”no.”
But he knew where the problem lay on this night.
”They did a good job of clogging up the neutral zone and we couldn’t get any speed and create anything offensively,” he said. ”The biggest thing for us is that we have to get the offence going.
”We’re not far off, but obviously to win more games we have to score more goals.”
Centre Scott Gomez left early in the second period with what the Canadiens called a lower body injury and did not return. Martin said his condition was day-to-day in a way that suggested it may not be overly serious.
The Canadiens owned the first period, with a 13-6 shot advantage, but it took until their first power play to beat Pascal Leclaire. Cammalleri had two tries from the side of the crease before banking his ninth of the season in off the far post at 9:09.
Josh Gorges was sent off for interference with 30 seconds left in the period and 21 seconds later, Foligno’s shot went off defenceman Jaroslav Spacek’s stick and fooled Price to tie the game.
Jason Spezza assisted on the goal to end his seven-game run without a point.
The Canadiens got a five-minute power play in the second period when Chris Kelly was sent off for boarding Yannick Weber from behind, but generated few chances. They got a four-minute advantage later when Fisher was assessed a double high-sticking call but did no better before it was nullified by a Montreal penalty to Alexandre Picard.
A mix-up between Ottawa’s Chris Neil and Jarkko Ruuto at centre ice allowed Halpern to skate in, wait for Leclaire to go down and fire into an open side 2:28 into the third.
Filip Kuba fanned on a shot at the Montreal blue-line and Gionta skated in alone to score at 10:01.
Leclaire left the game briefly with a skate problem in favour of Brian Elliott at 15:38 of the third after allowing three goals on 33 shots. Just 50 seconds later, Hamrlik batted Gionta’s rebound just under the crossbar. It was the veterandefenceman’s sixth point in the last four games.
Leclaire went back into the game after a 2:28 break and didn’t face another shot.
The Senators are at home Thursday night to face the Rangers, who they beat 3-1 Sunday in New York.
Montreal plays at Detroit on Friday night before moving to Toronto for a Saturday night clash with the Maple Leafs.
Notes _ Leclaire, now 2-7-1 for the season, got his first start against Montreal as Elliott played in their first three meetings. . . Montreal centre Tomas Plekanec won 20 of 26 faceoffs, including nine of 13 against Spezza. . . Peter Regin sat out a second straight game for Ottawa while Brian Lee was also scratched. . . Defenceman P.K. Subban was a healthy scratch for a third game for Montreal and forward Dustin Boyd also didn’t dress.