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Thrice as nice

Habs defeat Sens for the third time in eight days on Saturday to remain atop the Atlantic Division standings

by Steven Nechay @CanadiensMTL / canadiens.com

MONTREAL -- Good things came in threes for Andrei Markov and the Habs on Saturday.

In fact, Markov might as well have been paying homage to another legendary Habs rearguard -- Emile Bouchard, whose No. 3 hangs from the rafters -- with a three-point night that set in motion a series of trifectas, ending with a third consecutive win against Ottawa.

The 38-year-old set the tone early for the evening -- beginning with an assist on Shea Weber's opening tally at 9:28, before netting two more of his own in the middle frame en route to a first-star performance, and his first two-goal game in over three years.

Video: OTT@MTL: Weber hammers home PPG with big slapper

It was a performance that impressed even Weber, Markov's All-Star pairing on the blue line.

"Obviously [Andrei's] intelligence is up there with a lot of guys in the league. Plus, he has the ability to make plays with that intelligence, so he's the full package, and has been for a long time now," dished the 16-year NHL vet's main beneficiary on the night, who now leads all defensemen league-wide in power play goals with 12. "He's a great passer. Every game, it seems like he finds somebody -- whether it's to spark an odd-man rush, or he's just sliding it over for a good shot. He's a good partner to have, and I definitely enjoy getting passes from him."

But even with the glowing review, Weber might still be selling his defensive partner short.

Just ask Carey Price.

"Obviously he's best-known for his passing ability and vision, but he's got a very underrated shot as well. He can really rip it," acknowledged the Habs netminder, as Markov tested Craig Anderson three times to end the night tied second among his teammates in that category.

Video: OTT@MTL: Markov drills hard strike past Anderson

THREE IN A ROW

With the result, Montreal won a third game against Ottawa in the last eight days, taking the season series between two teams who just can't seem to get along -- the night's three brawls were proof enough of that.

"We knew it was going to be a tough one -- the last couple of games we didn't play good enough -- so we brought our focus back and played a full 60 minutes tonight. It was a good team win," explained Markov, as the Habs bounced back from a pair of losses to Detroit and Carolina during the week with the 3-1 effort.

But the night's most important three couldn't be found on the scoresheet Saturday.

Instead, it lay in the standings, where the Habs improved their Atlantic Division lead over the Sens to three points, once again earning a little breathing room in the race for first place.

Video: Markov on his three-point night against Ottawa

"We showed a lot of character in these [three games against Ottawa]," concluded Markov, as the Canadiens now get ready for Dallas on Tuesday. "I think we played three pretty solid games. We played a full 60 minutes -- and even 65 minutes on one night. Now we have to keep our focus at the same level and continue working harder."

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