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Canadiens rally for 4-3 victory against Ottawa

by Arpon Basu
MONTREAL -- Tomas Plekanec has no idea why his linemate of the past three seasons is suddenly playing so well again, and frankly, he doesn't care.

Because when Andrei Kostitsyn plays the way he did in Montreal's 4-3 win Saturday night over the Ottawa Senators, the Canadiens become a very dangerous team.

"Our line is so much stronger with him playing the way he's playing right now," Plekanec said. "He's doing what he does well, he's shooting the puck, he's hitting, he's going to the net. Tonight there were three or four times where he drove to the net through the middle and he opened up some space for (Michael Cammalleri) to shoot. He was a big part of the winning goal."

That winner came from Plekanec to cap a Montreal comeback from two goals down as the Canadiens (3-1-1) won their first on home ice this season.

Kostitsyn had a goal and an assist and was a dynamic force for a second straight game.

His goal in the second was highlight-reel material, but he was even more pivotal in creating Plekanec's winner. With Plekanec entering the zone Kostitsyn drove hard to the net, bringing a defender with him. Plekanec fed Kostitsyn for a deflection try, and the rebound was sitting in front for Plekanec to cash in at 16:01 of the third to make it 4-3.

It was a great play by Plekanec, but without Kostitsyn's net drive, it never would have happened.

"I tried to shoot the puck on the net, drive to the net and look for the rebounds," said Kostitsyn, who scored a career-high 26 goals in 2007-08, but dipped to 15 in an injury-plagued year last season. "If you play hard every game there's going to be a lot of chances to score goals, and you feel more comfortable in the game."

The line of Plekanec, Kostitsyn and Cammalleri combined for 15 shots on goal -- with 8 coming from Cammalleri alone -- compared to 19 shots for the entire Senators team.

"Andrei is an important element of our team when he uses his strength, when he goes to the net, and his shot can be an intimidating force," Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said. "He's been a big factor in our success the last couple of games."

Brian Gionta got his first goal as team captain for the Canadiens, who swept their back-to-back games against division foes over the weekend after winning in Buffalo 2-1 on Friday.

Milan Michalek scored twice and Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson had a pair of assists each for the Senators (1-3-1), who remain winless in three road games this season.

Brian Elliot made 33 saves for the Senators, who also got their first look at their possible goalie of the future in 19-year-old Robin Lehner. Called up from Binghamton of the AHL earlier in the day, Lehner came out to start the third period as Elliot dealt with a skate issue in the Senators room.

"I had a huge rush of adrenaline," Lehner said of the sudden call to action. "My legs were shaking pretty good for the first 25 seconds."

His first save was on a slow dribbler, but his next two came on quality shots from Scott Gomez and Cammalleri.

Elliot returned just before the five-minute mark of the third, putting a quick end to Lehner's NHL debut.

"That's a tough spot to put a guy in," Canadiens netminder Carey Price said.

Price improved to 3-0-1 in his last four starts for the Canadiens but only needed to make 16 saves to get the win, including two in the third period.

Price has now faced 42 shots in his last two games after facing 48 in a 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the home opener Wednesday.

"Our guys are playing well, and when they're playing well I don't see a whole lot of action," Price said. "(The Senators) capitalized on a couple of chances but after that we shut them down again."

Both teams came into the game with a struggling power play that scored for the first time in their last game -- Ottawa snapped an 0-for-17 skid when Mike Fisher scored the game-winner in a 3-2 win over Carolina on Thursday, and Montreal broke an 0-for-11 slump when Josh Gorges scored the winner in a 2-1 win in Buffalo on Friday.

However, neither team was able to build on that brief momentum as Ottawa went 0-for-2 and the Canadiens -- who had the second best power play in the League last year -- went 0-for-5 to drop to 1-for-17 on the season.

"I don't know if we're doing a bad job on the power play," Plekanec said. "I feel we're moving the puck pretty well, but there are things we can definitely be doing better. We need to work on it."

The game got off to an exciting start with Gionta's breakaway goal. Michalek fumbled a pass at the Canadiens blue line and Gionta was off to the races, scoring on the initial shot of the game at 1:06 of the first.

But the action slowed down considerably afterwards, and aside from Michalek's first of the night at 10:32 of the first nothing much happened over the next 29 minutes of play.

However, when the Senators scored on their first shot of the second period at 10:20 on a screamer from Karlsson, the floodgates opened.

Michalek got his second of the night on Ottawa's second shot of the period 53 seconds later at 11:13 and Halpern cut it to 3-2 at 13:39 of the second.

Then Kostitsyn scored what was the goal of the night, taking a pass from Plekanec, cutting in front of Elliot and roofing a puck over his left shoulder at 17:29 to tie the game 3-3.
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