Spezza tallies twice as Senators edge Canadiens

OTTAWA (AP) — Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens continue
to struggle in the wake of general manager Bob Gainey’s
surprising return to coaching.

Jason Spezza scored goals 52 seconds apart late in the first
period and Daniel Alfredsson added a goal and an assist in the
Ottawa Senators’ 5-4 victory over Montreal on Thursday night.

The Canadiens, who got a pair from Guillaume Latendresse and
singles from Alex Tanguay and Tom Kostopoulos, lost their fourth
in a row. They remain tied with Carolina for seventh place with
81 points – one ahead of ninth-place Florida – in a tight race
for the final Eastern Conference playoff spots.

Montreal is 1-2-2 since Gainey assumed the head coach’s duties
after firing Guy Carbonneau on March 9.

“Our team had been struggling for quite a while and I think the
idea of changing the position of the coach was one to attempt to
increase our chances in the last 16 games of the season, and I
think we can judge how that goes when we finish our final game,”
Gainey said.

Price allowed four goals on 15 shots before he was replaced
early in the second. The sophomore goalie has won four times in
18 starts since returning from an ankle injury prior to the
All-Star Game.

“I’ve got to take responsibility. I can’t be letting goals in,”
Price said. “It’s a group effort but I’ve got to play better.”

Nick Foligno and Jarkko Ruutu also scored for Ottawa, which has
won three in a row and seven of eight.

Brian Elliott stopped 28 shots and set a Senators rookie record
with his seventh straight victory.

Despite the run, Ottawa sits 12th in the East and is on the
verge of missing the playoffs for the first time since 1996.

“Every time you put your gear on, it doesn’t matter what the
situation is, you want to win the game,” Ruutu said. “We don’t
really look at the standings, we just take it a game at a time
and you never know, magic might happen, but it’s not really
something you worry about too much.”

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Jaroslav Halak made 23 saves after taking over for Price
following Ruutu’s highlight-reel goal that made it 4-2 early in
the second.

“It just felt like the opportune time to try to get the momentum
of the game stopped by changing the goalie, and see if we could
get things stopped and perhaps re-enter the game,” Gainey said.

Halak stopped Christoph Schubert on a breakaway and made a left
toe save on Alfredsson before Latendresse scored his second of
the game midway through the second to draw Montreal to 4-3.

“He faced four or five really difficult scoring opportunities
and held us there,” Gainey said. “We did get back in the game
and – not enough, in time.”

Foligno scored with the man advantage 2:55 in after Latendresse
opened the scoring 2:04 in with his first goal in two games
since returning from a shoulder injury.

Spezza scored Ottawa’s second straight power-play goal 16:44
into the first before adding his second goal – his 27th of the
season – on a deflection that made it 3-1 at 17:36.

He picked up his third point of the game with an assist on
Alfredsson’s goal 14:34 into the second that put Ottawa up, 5-3.

Montreal closed within one three times, including Kostopoulos’
ninth goal late in the second, without getting the tying goal.

“We have to stop playing catch-up hockey,” Latendresse said.

Tanguay, who had the flu and missed Tuesday night’s 4-3 shootout
loss to the New York Rangers, scored 48 seconds into the second
to draw Montreal within 3-2.

Ruutu answered moments later to chase Price, who made 11 saves.
The pesky Finnish forward drove the right side and put the puck
between his legs before putting a backhand into the top right
corner that left the Canadiens goalie looking over his left
shoulder while the Senators celebrated restoring their two-goal