MONTREAL - Richard Zednik picked the perfect time to snap out of his scoring slump, notching the winning goal in a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over the Senators Monday night at the Bell Centre.
The Canadiens (41-28-9) made up some ground on the sixth-place Devils, while leapfrogging the Lightning to grab sole possession of the No. 7 spot with 91 points. The injury-riddled Senators (50-20-8) have now lost seven of their last nine, but remain tied with Carolina atop the Eastern Conference with 108 points.
Despite being mired in a 13-game scoring drought, not to mention being a healthy scratch for the last three games, Zednik returned to the lineup with a vengence. By crashing the net and banging home a loose puck almost midway through the third period, Zednik helped earn Montreal its second straight victory over Ottawa.
"I think what we saw from Richard Zednik tonight tells you a lot about his character," said head coach Bob Gainey, of the Canadiens' top goal scorer in each of the past two seasons. "He proved to his teammates here tonight that he wants to contribute. He scored a goal, an important goal and played the way we all know he is capable of."
After scoring his 15th of the season and securing a pair of crucial points for his team, a visibly relieved Zednik admitted that there was nothing complicated about how he snapped his scoring skid.
"It felt really good to score tonight," admitted Zednik, who despite being below his usual goal-clip sits tied for second on the team with Saku Koivu and Alex Kovalev with four game-winning goals. "In any season there are going to be ups and downs. I just played my game and played as hard as I could. It's just that tonight, the puck went in."
Zednik wasn't alone in the heroics department on this night, as David Aebsicher made it 2-for-2 in as many starts against the Senators. After making 44 saves in last Thursday's 5-3 victory in Ottawa, Aebischer stopped 35-of-37 shots for his 28th win of the season. Saves don't come any bigger than the acrobatic glove grab he made on Daniel Alfredsson to set the table for Zednik's game-winner.
"It was a save that the team simply needed me to make," said Aebischer, the game's first star. "I moved towards him and I knew he was looking to go upstairs. I'm just glad that my glove ended up in the right spot."
Chris Higgins got the Canadiens on the board just over three minutes into the game by swatting a ricochet off the end boards past Ray Emery for his 23rd goal of the season. Higgins extended his scoring streak to four games and now has nine goals over his last eight games.
David Aebischer picked up his second straight win over the Senators in as many starts since coming to Montreal.
Sheldon Souray tied the game 2-2 at the 6:58 mark of the second period by hammering a slap shot through Emery's five-hole for his 11th goal of the season. Souray also set a new career-high with 36 points, shattering his previous benchmark of 35 set in 2003-04.
Scoring goals for the Senators were Andrej Meszaros and Dany Heatley, who potted his team-leading 48th of the season. Heatley is now just three points shy of becoming the first Senators player to ever reach the 100-point mark.
"We're two solid teams that may end up meeting in the first round of the playoffs," said Mathieu Dandenault, who helped set up Zednik's winning goal. "You can really feel this rivalry heating up. With these two big wins over Ottawa, we obviously wanted leave an impression with the playoffs now right around the corner."
Montreal will begin their final road trip of the season Wednesday night in Buffalo before heading to Boston to take on the Bruins the following night.
NOTES: With Steve Begin and Radek Bonk both sidelined with injuries suffered Saturday night against New Jersey, Richard Zednik and Niklas Sundstrom both returned to the lineup after sitting out the last three and six games respectively... Francis Bouillon sat out his12th straight game with a left ankle injury... Todd Simpson was a healthy scratch along with Maxim Lapierre, who was called up from the Hamilton Bulldogs Monday afternoon... Monday night's showdown with the Senators drew a capacity crowd of 21,273, marking the Canadiens' 39th consecutive sellout of the season and 62nd straight overall packed house dating back to 2003-04... With now 300 goals on the season, the Senators become the first team to hit the 300 mark since Pittsburgh, Colorado and Detroit all did so back in 1995-96.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com