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Advantage, Montreal

Habs take first leg of weekend's home-and-away series against Ottawa

by Steven Nechay @CanadiensMTL /

KANATA -- Montreal's first win against Ottawa this season couldn't have come at a better time.

Following a pair of 4-3 losses against the Sens earlier in the campaign dating back to October 15 and November 22, on Saturday it was the Habs' turn to see a 4-3 scoreline go in their favor.

That it went all the way to a shootout was only fitting for two teams who entered the contest separated by a single point in the standings, while playing some of their most inspired hockey as of late.

"Overall our guys are sticking to the game plan, and what happened tonight was probably exactly what every hockey expert expected -- a real tight game between two teams that are playing well, with a lot of confidence, and for a top spot [in the division]," acknowledged head coach Claude Julien, who saw the lead exchange hands three times before Alexander Radulov ultimately sealed the deal in the tiebreaking frame.

Video: MTL@OTT: Radulov goes top shelf for shootout win

And so with an 11th win this season after trailing two periods, the never-give-up Habs now extend their lead across the NHL in that category, while earning a little breathing room in the Atlantic's race for first place.

"We've been falling behind sometimes after two, but we showed a lot of character coming back in the third period. Even that goal didn't seem to rattle us," continued the Habs bench boss, after Erik Karlsson knotted things up at three apiece with under five minutes to go in regulation to force overtime. "We came back after they tied it with a couple of real good shifts there where we had some opportunities. Then the kill in the overtime was probably the key moment in giving us a chance to win that game."

Indeed, after Max Pacioretty took a holding call with under two to go in OT, the penalty kill came up big in securing an extra point that never seemed so precious.

Montreal was outshot 4-0 in the extra frame, but held on long enough to force the shootout.

"We both want to climb the standings. It's so tight, and they're right behind us. [We have] two big games [against Ottawa] this weekend, so it's a huge win for us," underlined Andrew Shaw, who enjoyed his sixth multi-point game of the season with a goal and an assist on Saturday. "We owe a lot to the PK, they were great tonight. It was a good team win."

A good team win with solid secondary scoring, as Shaw, Phillip Danault, and Brendan Gallagher contributed the Montreal goals in regulation.

"That's what we need to succeed. It's nice to see those guys step up in a big game [...]," dished Julien, as the Habs notched their 40th win of the season. "If you can get secondary scoring, that's what you gives you a chance to win so many games in this league."

Video: Shaw on Saturday's big win in Ottawa

The Habs now have 11 games remaining on their regular season schedule, but will take a quick breather -- however slight -- before setting their sights on win No. 41, in less than 24 hours from now.

"We're going to enjoy it tonight. You can always enjoy a win, but when we get back to work tomorrow morning, we've got to be focused on what we've got to do, and what we've got to do better," concluded Julien. "Right now the guys put a lot of energy into the game, so I'll let them relax, and then tomorrow morning we'll get right back at it."

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