The Montreal Canadiens hosted the Ottawa Senators Tuesday night. The two teams had met three times already this season, and the Habs had lost all three.
Ottawa has struggled with injuries lately, with two of their big men—Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson—out. They have lost seven of their last ten games.
However, the Sens were the ones who opened the show. Chris Kelly scored two minutes after the start of the first period on a rebound of Antoine Vermette's shot.
Since Alfie and Heatley were not on the ice for the Sens, Montreal could count on their first line to dominate.
On their first power play, Montreal's best forwards got to work. The puck was passed from Alexei Kovalev to Tomas Plekanek, and back to Andrei Kostitsyn for the score, to tie the game at 1-1.
Montreal came back again at the end of the first—from "Kovy" to "Kosti," to "Pleky," who gave a 2-1 lead to the Tricolore.
At the start of the second period, Mark Streit's hesitation at the blue line gave Ottawa's Mike Fisher and Chris Neil the opportunity to show some action to Cristobal Huet, but Neil missed the net. Right then, Andrei Kostitsyn made a pass to hybrid/polyvalent (or what you want to call him!) Mark Streit, who scored and added on the Habs domination.
Midway through the second, Montreal's Kovalev made a pass to Tomas Plekanek, who directed the puck past Gerber. It was 4-1 for Montreal, and the first-line crew already had three points each.
But there is a name that should not be forgotten in Ottawa—Jason Spezza. Placing himself behind Montreal D Andrei Markov, he redirected a pass from Robitaille into the net and shook things up in the third.
Later, with Francis Bouillon in the box, Antoine Vermette got the puck past Huet. The Sens were then down by only one goal with more than ten minutes to go.
As the traffic increased in front of Huet, Robitaille came one inch from tying the game until D Francis Bouillon redirected the puck. That was a close one!
With more than one minute left in the third, Montreal Kostopoulos missed the chance to secure his team's lead, missing an empty net.
On the other side, Huet was working full-time facing the Sens' attempts to break the door. Late in the second, Robitaille tried to reduce the gap, but Huet responded with a big save that got him a place in the highlights of the night.
He was also especially sharp at the end of the third with two big stops on Chris Kelly's tries.
The Habs are now one point from the Eastern Conference lead. They will host the Toronto Maple Leafs Thursday night, before going to Ottawa for a Saturday's game.
It has been a long time since the Habs could get that close to a division title, but they still have to face considerable challenges such as both Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson, who will probably be back on the ice Saturday.
For a second consecutive game, Michael Ryder was the healthy scratch. In an interview this morning, he said that maybe he would be better elsewhere; while coach Carbonneau leaves all trade-related responsibilities to GM Bob Gainey. D Roman, Hamrlik did not play either, being apparently victim of a flu.
After a bad penalty to Saku Koivu, coach Carbo considerably decreased the Captain TOI. He later declared that he considered the Captain's situation to be worrying.
The post's three stars: Tomas Plekanek - Alexei Kovalev - Andrei Kostitsyn