A few weeks ago, mired in a five-game losing streak and with several of its top players on the shelf, the Ottawa Senators were concerned simply with hanging in the playoff race.
Now they're on a franchise-record winning streak and closer to first place in the Northeast Division than they are to dropping out of the top eight in the Eastern Conference.
Mike Fisher scored with 1:27 left in overtime and Brian Elliott stopped 27 shots as the Senators defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 on Saturday afternoon at Scotiabank Place, setting a new franchise mark with their ninth straight win.
With the teams skating 3-on-3 after penalties to Hal Gill and Jason Spezza, Fisher took advantage of the open ice to get free. He took defenseman Erik Karlsson's pass and wristed a shot past Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak for his 19th of the season. Ottawa pulled to within five points of idle Buffalo for the lead in the Northeast.
"Yeah, you don't see it too often, that's for sure," Fisher said of the manpower situation. "I went in with speed and it was a great play by Karlsson. It was his play."
Brian Gionta forced overtime for the Canadiens by scoring a power-play goal with 2:45 remaining. With Chris Kelly off for high-sticking, Tomas Plekanec worked the puck down low for Andrei Markov, and the defenseman passed cross crease to Gionta, who slipped the puck past Elliott from the right lip of the paint.
Halak, who finished with 34 saves, also helped make sure Montreal got a point by stopping Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson off a 2-on-1 break with about 40 seconds remaining.
"It was a hard-fought game both ways," Spezza said.
Elliott has started the last seven games of the streak for Ottawa. It began with Mike Brodeur shutting out the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 14, a night when the Senators were without Alfredsson, Spezza and Milan Michalek due to injuries.
All three have since come back and now the Senators are surging. Alex Kovalev started the scoring in the first period, beating Halak with 2:39 remaining, and Spezza made it 2-0, scoring on a power play 11:37 into the second period.
"I think it's a lot of guys contributing to make this thing possible," Alfredsson said. "We're just taking it day-by-day and try to keep this thing going and try to make as big a gap as we can behind us."
Benoit Pouliot's power-play goal with 4:43 left in the second started the Canadiens back against Elliott, who has allowed just eight goals in those seven games.
"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 lost leading goal scorer Mike Cammalleri to a knee injury in the third period after he collided with Senators defenseman Anton Volchenkov along the boards. Volchenkov was also shaken up but skated back to bench while Cammalleri, who has 26 goals in his first season with Montreal, was helped to the dressing room.
"He'll be evaluated Sunday," Montreal coach Jacques Martin said. "We'll wait and see what the injury is."
Nick Foligno of the Senators struggled to the bench moments later after blocking a shot by Canadiens defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron. A team spokesman later said Foligno had a broken right leg and would be sidelined 6-8 weeks.
"It's very disappointing," said Senators GM Bryan Murray. "It's disappointing for him as he was just starting to play well and carry a lot of ice time for us. For him to go down that way it's hard for him."
Material from wire services were used in this report.
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