OTTAWA (CP) - Both the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens turned to tried-and-tested combinations Thursday night, hoping to break out of their mid-winter doldrums.
It was the Senators who met with success, however, when the reunited duo of Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley combined for a pair of goals in a 4-1 victory over the Canadiens before a sell-out crowd of 19,915 at Scotiabank Place.
"For us, getting back together was the same as it's been all season - good things happen," said Heatley, who took a pass from Spezza in the slot and notched his 32nd goal of the season 56 seconds into the second period, a goal that stood as the winner. "We were moving the puck well and we got a couple of goals out of it," he added.
Spezza, who hasn't played regularly with his longtime linemate since returning from a knee injury suffered before the all-star break, had a goal and an assist in the front end of a home-and-home series between the teams.
Meanwhile, Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau reunited the line of Saku Koivu, Christopher Higgins and Michael Ryder, a combination that served Montreal well in the early part of the season, but didn't fare as well Thursday.
"They have to get better," said Carbonneau of his top line. "We need something to turn the corner, but I don't have a lot of options."
Carbonneau watched the Senators take the lead 4½ minutes into the game through Chris Phillips before Montreal made eight trips to the penalty box and allowed a power-play goal by Peter Schaefer.
The Senators (31-22-3) stopped a two-game losing slide and won for just the second time in five games to leapfrog Montreal (29-21-6) in the Northeast Division standings.
Senators goaltender Ray Emery stopped 27 shots to pick up his 23rd win of the season, matching his victory total from all of last year and Volchenkov added two assists.
Guillaume Latendresse had the lone goal on a second-period penalty shot and Cristobal Huet finished with 35 saves for the Canadiens, who have lost back-to-back games and four of their past five.
Montreal went 0-for-6 on the power play.
"In my speech before the game, we talked about discipline," Carbonneau said. "The good thing is they took (six penalties) on us, but we just couldn't capitalize. The last seven or eight games, we've been creating chances - we just can't put it in the ocean right now."
Chris Neil sidestepped a check from Aaron Downey in the neutral zone and hit Phillips with a lead pass. Huet got a piece of Phillips' drive from the top of the faceoff circle, but the puck rolled off the tip of the goaltender's glove and in.
It was the seventh straight game in which the Canadiens have allowed the first goal.
Montreal then proceeded to give up a goal just 56 seconds into the second as Spezza found Heatley in the slot for Heatley to notch his 32nd goal of the season.
Schaefer took a pass from Daniel Alfredsson and beat Huet from close range during a power play later in the period.
"We're starting to skate better and play better, then we go back to doing lazy things - taking too many penalties," Higgins said.
Latendresse gave the Canadiens hope when Phillips pulled him down on a breakaway with 2½ minutes remaining in the second. He scored on the ensuing penalty shot and Phillips also received a high-sticking minor on the play from referee Rob Shick, but Montreal couldn't convert with the man advantage.
"Montreal's got a great power play," Emery said. "(But) I think we did a really good job. We got in the lanes. Volchenkov was blocking shots (he was credited with a game-high six) and we did a good job of clearing out."
Spezza capped things off on an odd-man rush with 1:31 remaining in regulation.
The teams meet again Saturday night at the Bell Centre
Notes: Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov remained sidelined with a lower-body injury... D Craig Rivet was scratched with the flu.