OTTAWA – Max Pacioretty is still finding his game after a long absence, but the Montreal Canadiens winger looked to be nearing mid-season form Friday.
Pacioretty scored two power-play goals and Erik Cole added the shootout winner as the Habs stormed back to beat the Ottawa Senators 4-3.
“I might look like I’m confident, but everyone wants to score goals and is just waiting for that first one,” said Pacioretty, who played his second game of the pre-season as he returns from a devastating concussion and cracked vertebrae suffered last season on a hit by Zdeno Chara.
“I had a lot of opportunities in that first game, but didn’t put any in the back of the net so getting that first one was a big relief.”
Scott Gomez tied the game for Montreal with 36.4 seconds left in regulation on a shot that bounced in off Daniel Alfredsson’s skate.
Carey Price allowed three goals on 18 shots for the Habs, while Nathan Lawson made 11 saves in relief as Montreal rebounded from a 3-0 second-period deficit.
Canadiens coach Jacques Martin was pleased with his team’s resiliency.
“We showed some desire, we battled and it was nice to be able to tie it in the last minute and win it in the shootout,” Martin said.
Zack Smith had two goals in the first period for the Senators, while Milan Michalek also scored. Craig Anderson made 30 saves in defeat.
Despite the loss, the Senators still had a number of positives, namely the return of captain Daniel Alfredsson, who played for the first time since Feb. 7 when a back injury forced the Senators captain to miss the end of last season.
“I kept it fairly simple throughout the night,” Alfredsson said. “I just tried to work myself in, get the pace and I felt that went pretty good and with the puck I think there’s improvement to do, but overall I’m happy.”
The 38-year-old finished with one shot on goal in 21 minutes 44 seconds of ice time.
The Senators jumped out to a 3-0 lead midway through the second, but Pacioretty scored twice on the power play before a crowd of 17,853 at Scotiabank Place to make it 3-2 after two periods.
Pacioretty beat Anderson between the legs at 12:07 and snuck behind the Senators defence to score shortside at 17:06 on a long feed from Lawson.
“Their blue-line became a huge brick wall,” Senators coach Paul MacLean said. “We gave up the momentum of the game by being a little stubborn at their blue-line.”
Smith scored his first goal into a wide open net after Price was caught out of position at 14:06 of the first. Smith then took a nice pass from Jason Spezza 63 seconds later while killing a penalty to make it 2-0.
Smith is looking to earn the confidence of the new coaching staff and Friday’s performance is likely to help his cause.
“I haven’t had too many two-goal games in my NHL career,” Smith said. “It’s definitely a confidence booster.”
Michalek made it 3-0 midway through the second, beating Price with a wrist shot from the slot. That also marked the end of the night for Price, although he was only expected to play half the game.
Notes: Matt Carkner is the last remaining regular player for the Senators to not play a pre-season game. He’s expected to play in Montreal on Saturday. … The start of the second period was briefly delayed due to a fire alarm going off in Scotiabank Place.