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Montreal Canadiens-Ottawa Senators: A Habs Loss that May Hurt More than Most

OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 30:  Jarkko Ruutu #73 of the Ottawa Senators has his stick lifted by Michael Cammalleri #13 of the Montreal Canadiens out front of teammate Jaroslav Halak #41 in a game at Scotiabank Place on January 30, 2010 in Ottawa, Canada.  The Ottawa Senators lead the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 after two periods. (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)
Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images
Rocket All HabsCorrespondent IJanuary 31, 2010

Ottawa 3, Montreal 2 (Scotiabank Place )

In the opening game of Hockey Day in Canada, the Canadiens got off to another slow start. By midway through the game, Ottawa had taken a 2-0 lead. The Habs' power play scored an important goal before the end of the second period to keep the game close.

But that's where the game story becomes secondary to concerns for the Canadiens' season.

With about 7:16 left in the third period, Tomas Plekanec dumped the puck across the Ottawa blueline. As Mike Cammalleri chased it down, Anton Volchenkov batted the puck out of the zone with a backhand and continued into Cammalleri with a solid hit.

Was it interference? Probably, but that seemed irrelevant as Canadiens' fans watched Cammalleri fall backward against the boards, his knee buckling underneath him in a way that the knee was not designed to bend. Cammalleri grimaced in pain and could not put weight on his right leg as he was helped off the ice by Sergei Kostitsyn and athletic therapist Graham Rynbend.

After the game, coach Jacques Martin would only say that it was a lower-body injury and that Cammalleri would receive an MRI on Monday. Cammalleri left Scotiabank Place on crutches with his right leg immobilized in an inflatable cast. Hockey Night in Canada's Scott Morrison reported that Cammalleri had sustained "suspected MCL [medial collateral ligament] damage."

It is meaningless at this point to speculate on the severity of Cammalleri's injury, but it is hard to ignore his contribution to the team this season. Cammalleri has 26 goals this season, with only four scored on the power play. For a team that struggles scoring at even-strength, his loss for an extended period of team is devastating.

After Saturday's game, the Canadiens have now gone 217:16 without a 5-on-5 goal. The Habs scored two goals on the power-play by Benoit Pouliot and Brian Gionta. The Habs could not generate any sustained offensive pressure while at even-strength.

Coach Martin saw it differently. "I think both teams were pretty even five-on-five as far as chances," Martin said. "I think for 60 minutes we had a pretty good performance even after missing certain players."

While Martin felt that the Canadiens battled hard, he said it was Mike Fisher's line that made the difference in the game.

Fisher scored the game-winner in overtime in a rare three-on-three matchup when he went around Andrei Markov and deked Jaroslav Halak. Marc-Andre Bergeron casually glided back and could offer no support.

"I don't even know how it went in. I made the first save, maybe somebody..." Halak said, not finishing his sentence. It's clear that Halak was fooled as there was no one else in the vicinity of the play.

Tomas Plekanec had two assists and was the Canadiens' best forward. Sergei Kostitsyn, Brian Gionta, and Benoit Pouliot played well also. Glen Metropolit continued his stay in coach Martin's doghouse. He had less than ten minutes of ice time, and the fewest number of shifts among Habs' players.

Ryan O'Byrne played well, with over 20 minutes of ice time, paired with Markov. In one of his several solid hits, O'Byrne leveled Milan Michalek. Markov, on the other hand, has not looked the same in his own zone for several games.

Yannick Weber deserves credit for a solid 14 minutes of play, sprinkled with a few mistakes. While he was on the ice for the first Ottawa goal, it was his defensive partner Hal Gill who was slow to cover the goal scorer, Alex Kovalev, after Weber had done a nice job containing him. Weber made a great defensive play in the third period by preventing a Senators' break, which transitioned to a good scoring chance for the Habs.

The Senators won their ninth straight game, while the Canadiens picked up one point for the overtime loss.

“It’s disappointing, for sure,” Pouliot said. “You can’t fall behind by one or two at the start of every game and expect to come back all the time, that’s tough. We showed some character and we come back to tie it 2-2 at the end of the period. The power play did well and it’s just too bad that we couldn’t get a second point.”

The Canadiens' next game is at home on Tuesday night against the Vancouver Canucks.

Rocket's three stars

1. Mike Fisher
2. Tomas Plekanec
3. Alex Kovalev

Material from wire services was used in this report.

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