Alex Kovalev got a standing ovation from many in the sellout crowd at the Bell Centre when he scored a third-period goal that gave his team a 3-1 lead. Unfortunately for the 21,273 fans on hand, he wasn't playing for the Montreal Canadiens.
Kovalev had an assist and a game-clinching goal in his return to Montreal as his new team, the Ottawa Senators, beat his old team 3-1 on Saturday night, handing the Canadiens their fifth consecutive loss.
Kovalev was greeted with a loud mix of cheers and boos, but when he scored at 11:28 of the third on a wrist shot from the slot, he received a standing O amid chants of "Kovy, Kovy."
"It means a lot," Kovalev said of the huge ovation. "It's appreciation for what I have done for the city. I really appreciate all the support the fans (in Montreal) have given me.
Kovalev got another loud ovation when he was named the game's third star and took an extra twirl around the ice to acknowledge the cheers.
"It's always a great feeling to score," he said. "It doesn't matter if it's against your former team or not. Who doesn't want to score? Everybody likes to score."
Kovalev, who has also played for the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh, had 103 goals and 161 assists for 264 points in 314 regular-season games with Montreal from 2004-09.
Coach Cory Clouston put Kovalev's line on the ice to start the game.
"He deserved that," Clouston said. "Whether we were here or not, he was probably going to start anyway but it's just nice for him to be able to get the anthem and the appreciation from the crowd."
His teammates knew this wasn't just another game for Kovalev.
"I think it's a special night," Alfredsson said. "He's playing in a city like Montreal, with all the history they have here. And to win over the fans like he did ... you saw he left his mark. It's probably nice for him to get recognized the way he did."
Kovalev admitted it's a game and a night he won't forget.
"It's something that you'll remember ... it's a special moment," he said." I'll enjoy tonight but then you have to move on because there's still a lot of games to get played. It's only the first time we've met them and there are a lot of games to be played between us."
In contrast to the cheers for Kovalev, there were boos for the home team, which won its first two games in OT but has lost its next five, including its first two home games of the new season. They were pinned in their own zone for much of the third period.
"Fans expect us to win games, so in that sense their reaction is not unexpected," Cammalleri said. "If I was a fan, I wouldn't be happy either."
Pascal Leclaire made 15 of his 27 saves in the first period, when Montreal managed only Mike Cammalleri's first goal as a Canadien. He allowed only one goal for the third time in six starts this season as the Senators improved to 5-2-0.
"Early in the game I might have made one or two nice saves, but the more the game went on we raised our game," Leclaire said. "I didn't have to do a whole lot in the second half of the game."
The Senators took the lead at 9:16 of the opening period on only their second shot of the game. Nick Foligno took the puck from Kyle Chipchura behind the net, and Mike Fisher found Chris Neil in the slot for a wrist shot beat Carey Price high to the glove side.
Ottawa killed off four consecutive power plays, but Montreal tied the game with 27 seconds left in the period when his shot from the right circle hit Leclaire in the shoulder and trickled into the net.
The Senators went ahead 4:44 into the second after penalties to Hal Gill and Josh Gorges left Montreal two men short. Kovalev controlled the puck at the right circle and sent a perfect cross-ice pass to Daniel Alfredsson, who one-timed it past Price.
Kovalev' put it away with his third of the season, converting a pass from Fisher after the Canadiens failed on several clearing attempts.
--John Kreiser, NHL.com
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report
|Chris Neil (2) ASST: Mike Fisher (3), Nick Foligno (2)|
1 - 0 OTT
|Mike Cammalleri (1) ASST: Scott Gomez (3), Jaroslav Spacek (2)|
1 - 1 Tie
|PPG - Daniel Alfredsson (3) ASST: Alex Kovalev (1), Jason Spezza (4)|
2 - 1 OTT
|Alex Kovalev (3) ASST: Mike Fisher (4), Daniel Alfredsson (6)|
3 - 1 OTT
|Jonathan Cheechoo Hooking against Georges Laraque|
|Chris Neil Too many men/ice - bench|
|Chris Phillips Hooking against Mike Cammalleri|
|Nick Foligno Hooking against Jaroslav Spacek|
|Jaroslav Spacek Hooking against Jason Spezza|
|Josh Gorges Tripping against Daniel Alfredsson|
|Hal Gill Tripping against Erik Karlsson|
|Brian Gionta Hooking against Milan Michalek|
|Jarkko Ruutu Misconduct (10 min)|
|Paul Mara Holding against Alex Kovalev|