MONTREAL - Steve Begin didn't want to take any chances. Just in case opponents had forgotten, he reminded the Senators and the rest of the NHL exactly what he brings to the ice every night in his first game back from injury.
Almost two months to the day and 27 games later, Begin made his eagerly awaited return to the lineup and hardly missed a beat. Guy Carbonneau did what he could to ease Begin back into action, but the hardnosed forward wouldn't have it. Begin crammed as much as one possibly could into his just over 13 minutes of ice-time.
"I was surprised he was able to play as much as he did after being out for two months," said Carbonneau, who last had Begin in his lineup against the Sabres on Dec. 9. "Steve was easily our best player out there tonight."
There wasn't much Begin didn't do against the Senators. The Canadiens' resident Energizer Bunny got the Habs on the scoreboard with his third goal of the season, blocked shots, killed penalties and was a general pain in the Senators' butt all night long. In other words, it was just another night at the office for Begin.
"I was sucking wind there for a bit, but I'm satisfied with how everything went," said Begin, the game's second star. "Coming back after being out for so long was tough though.
"I told myself before the game the last thing I wanted to do was get myself or the team into trouble," added Begin, who led all forwards with five hits. "I just wanted to be smart and play my game."
His absence from the lineup not only coincided with the Canadiens struggles since December, but the penalty kill also missed Begin's tenacity. Once the league's best, the PK unit's efficiency dipped from 89.6 percent to 77.3 percent while Begin was out of action. With No. 22 back in uniform, the Habs responded by snuffing out all but one of Ottawa's eight power plays.
"What we saw from "Beige" tonight is a perfect example of what he's all about," said linemate Mike Johnson, who made a great play to set up Begin's second period goal. "He was great out there. He threw some solid hits and scored a goal. He also killed penalties and even when he broke his stick, he still managed to block shots.
"And to think he hadn't played in so long," added Johnson. "Steve showed the type of effort we're going to need to get ourselves back on track."
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com