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Canadiens, Senators heading in opposite directions

Montreal wins third straight, Ottawa loses seventh in row; next play each other in NHL100 Classic

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / Columnist

MONTREAL -- In this construction-choked city, hockey fans manage to be in perpetual motion between the Montreal Canadiens bandwagon and physiotherapy for ankles sprained when leaping off it.

Today, the Canadiens' bandwagon is standing-room only, while that of the Ottawa Senators is in the shop with a broken axle. Who knows what state of repair both will be in when these teams next meet on Dec. 16 in the Scotiabank NHL 100 Classic, unofficially the Rumble on the Rideau Canal, outdoors under the lights at Ottawa's Lansdowne Park.

Montreal is on a modest roll. The Canadiens are winners of three straight for the second time this season following a 2-1 victory against the Senators at Bell Centre on Wednesday.

Ottawa, meanwhile, is winless in seven games, their loss here the opener on a gruelling seven-game road trip.

"You hope it's helped," Canadiens coach Claude Julien said, his team having closed out a three-game, six-point homestand on the heels of a 3-0 win against the Buffalo Sabres and 3-1 victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets. "I see our team playing a more sound game, and that's helping us a lot.

'We're getting great goaltending but I think we also can give credit to the defensemen. They're a lot better defensively but we're also starting to get the puck out of our own end a little better. There's time when we're jammed in there because teams forecheck hard, just like we do at the other end. [But] we've got a commitment from our forwards to come down and really help. Because of that, we're able to re-attack, not spread out but closer to a five-man unit."

The homestand sweep was anchored by goalie Carey Price, who made 27 saves, including a couple of dandies late with the Senators pressing to tie. After missing 10 games with a lower-body injury, Price is flashing the form that had fashioned him into one of hockey's elite goaltenders.

"He's been our best player," forward Andrew Shaw said. "He's calm, he's cool, he's made big-time saves and working hard for us. We're trying to do the same for him. Even when they dump it in, he's like a third defenseman, able to move the puck quickly and get it out of our end. It's been a huge help."

Video: Kevin Weekes discusses the recent play of Carey Price

From down Highway 417, the Senators seem forever removed from the three-game win streak they cobbled together in mid-October, sweeping their Western Canada road swing.

The Senators arrived here winless in six, having earned just one point of a possible 12 in that stretch. Their current trip takes them from Montreal to Brooklyn, then Winnipeg, Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose and finally to Buffalo on Dec. 12.

Montreal and Ottawa face a climb toward a Stanley Cup Playoff berth, the Canadiens and Senators, respectively, sitting in fifth and sixth place in the eight-team Atlantic Division.

Senators coach Guy Boucher figures his team is just a bounce or two away from digging itself out of this slump.

"Like the last one [a 2-1 home loss to the New York Islanders on Nov. 25], a game that was very tight, played very well, [the Canadiens] capitalized on a mistake we made on their first goal, and the mistakes they made, we couldn't capitalize.

"In the end, we got 41 body checks, 65 shot attempts, and the guys pushed and gave everything they've got. We're playing these really good games, we're just not getting those bounces and plays that can turn into goals. The opposition gets that one play and that's the game. … The result is going to turn, the performance is going to be similar, but we just need the bounce to go our way."

Video: Weekes on the Senators losing streak

You need to look a continent to the east and a few weeks back to find the Senators' last visit to the win column, having twice defeated the Colorado Avalanche in Stockholm on Nov. 10 and 11 in the 2017 SAP NHL Global Series.

But Boucher was hardly moping Wednesday, pleased with an effort that just didn't produce the desired result.

"They're buying in and they're sticking together, as is the coaching staff," he said of his players. "If your team is all over the place and you're getting shellacked and you're giving up 40 shots and not getting anything, then your team is not there. But we're right there in any game against anybody."

There is plenty of hockey for the Canadiens and Senators before these spirited rivals meet again in one of the NHL's marquee games this Centennial season.

This much is certain. The Senators, their season for now drifting like wind-whipped snow, have some serious shovelling to do the next couple of weeks before they take their act outdoors against Montreal.

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