OTTAWA — For a team that was supposed to finish dead last in the Eastern Conference according to many hockey experts, first place in the Northeast division looks pretty good on the Ottawa Senators.
“It means a lot of hard work by all those guys across the hallway,” Senators coach Paul MacLean said of his players following a 2-1 overtime win over the Montreal Canadiens on Friday night.
“They’ve worked real hard and they’ve believed in themselves for a long time now and I think the consistency of their effort on a daily basis is being rewarded with the success the team is having. But, we’ve got 10 games left to play and we have lots of work to do.”
Filip Kuba scored his sixth goal of the season 3:07 in to the extra period to give the Senators the win and earn a bit of redemption from their 3-2 shootout loss in Montreal on Wednesday.
After taking a pass from Daniel Alfredsson, Kuba beat Carey Price in the Montreal net with a slapshot from the top of the left faceoff circle.
Ottawa defenceman Erik Karlsson assisted on Kuba’s winner, giving him four points in his last three games and 71 points in 71 games on the season.
Kuba scored on the Senators’ 33rd shot as Ottawa jumped over idle Boston for first place in the Northeast and second in the conference, although the Bruins have two games in hand.
Colin Greening scored in regulation for the Senators, while Tomas Plekanec replied for the Canadiens.
Ottawa (37-25-10), snapped a two-game slide in the process and have collected points in five straight games. Senators goaltender Ben Bishop faced just 14 shots.
Montreal (28-32-12) also has points in five straight games, including three wins, as it continues to climb out of the Eastern Conference basement.
Greening scored at 6:27 of the third period to tie the game after some good work from Zack Smith, who outskated the Habs defence and got the puck on goal before Greening backhanded a rebound past a fallen Price.
“I felt like it was a gritty game and it takes 59, or in our case 63 minutes, just to break them,” Greening said.
“I felt like we played really well and I think we deserved to have a couple more goals. Overall we just stuck to it and we knew that going into overtime were playing the better of the two teams.”
Despite 10 combined power plays through the first two periods, there was only one goal scored, and a short-handed one at that.
Plekanec made his way into the Montreal zone with Petteri Nokelainen in the penalty box and fired a quick shot that seem to catch Bishop off guard.
Plekanec looked as though he was going to try and split the Ottawa defence, but after taking a quick step to his left, he shot and recorded his second short-handed goal of the season, and ninth for the Canadiens, at 8:18 of the first period.
Montreal finished 0-for-6 on the power play while the Senators went 0-for-8, including a lengthy five-on-three to start the second period.
“Obviously that’s what you’re disappointed in — the amount of work the penalty killers have to do. Some of the calls were deserved, but some you shake your head at,” Montreal coach Randy Cunneyworth said.
“They were quite correct on a lot of the calls. The one that puzzled me may have been Cole when he was hauled down by Karlsson, but beyond that, we have to play a lot smarter in certain situations. We iced a lot of pucks, but we also made a lot of moves that put us on our heels.”
The Senators held the Canadiens to just three shots in each of the final two periods and none in overtime.
Notes: Karlsson is the youngest defenceman to reach 70 points since Brian Leetch in the 1988-89 season. … Friday’s game was the second of three over a nine-day span between Ottawa and Montreal. The Canadiens were 3-2 winners in a shootout at home March 14 and the two will meet for the sixth and final time this season in Montreal on March 23. … Plekanec’s goal Friday was his 139th with the Canadiens, two behind Ryan Walter for 40th all-time in Canadiens’ history.