OTTAWA- In a clash between the two top teams in the Eastern Conference, the Canadiens' four-game road winning streak was finally snapped following a 4-3 overtime loss to the Senators at the Corel Centre on Thursday night.
In an action-packed battle that appeared destined to be decided by a shootout, Jason Spezza swooped in alone and beat Jose Theodore up-high at the 2:48 mark of overtime to dash Montreal's hopes of their first 5-0 road start and 8-2 overall start in team history.
The Canadiens (7-2-1) remain alone atop the Eastern Conference standings with 15 points, just ahead of the 7-1-0 Senators. Montreal is off to its best start since opening the 1982-83 season with a 7-1-2 mark.
Jose Theodore had his strongest outing of the season so far on what happened to also be his busiest night yet. The Canadiens' netminder stopped 38 of a season-high 42 shots, featuring a number of highlight reel saves that included first period breakaways from Spezza and Dany Heatley, as well as a miraculous stop on Chris Neil in the dying moments of regulation to force overtime.
Richard Zednik, who was back in the lineup after missing eight straight games since suffering a groin injury on opening night, looked very much at home alongside Mike Ribeiro and Michael Ryder as the trio accounted for all three Canadiens goals and combined for six points. Zednik, who logged 16:49 of ice-time in his return, picked up an assist for his first point of the season.
Ribeiro, who notched a pair of goals in Tuesday's 3-2 win over the Flyers, continued to have the hot hand with two more goals against the Senators. The Canadiens' top point-getter in 2003-04, Ribeiro now leads the team with six goals. Ryder also had a solid night with a goal and two assists, bringing the 2004 rookie-of-the-year runner-up's point total to eight.
With Dominik Hasek getting the night off, back-up Ray Emery turned away 27-of-30 shots to improve to 2-0 on the season, both wins coming over the Canadiens.
Also on the scoresheet for Ottawa were Zdeno Chara, Antoine Vermette and Heatley, who added an assist on Spezza's overtime winner to extend his season-long point scoring streak to eight games.
The Canadiens will now return home for the first game in a home-and-home series with Jaromir Jagr and the Rangers on Saturday night, before heading to New York on Monday.
NOTES: Montreal was 2-for-5 on the power-play, while the Senators were 2-for-8 with the man advantage... The Canadiens remain 6-2 in one-goal games so far this year...Theodore faced over 40 shots for the first time in 29 regular season contests, dating back to Feb. 12, 2004 when he was bombarded with 41 shots in a 5-2 loss to the Lightning...D Craig Rivet, who drew the praise of Claude Julien following his role in helping shutdown the tandem of Peter Forsberg and Simon Gagne on Tuesday, picked up an assist for his first point of the season... RW Niklas Sundstrom (groin) missed his third straight game, while LW Pierre Dagenais was a healthy scratch for the fourth time of the season with Julien again opting to instead dress seven defensemen...Senators RW Martin Havlat missed his third game of a five-game suspension for kicking Boston's Hal Gill...
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com