MONTREAL (CP) - Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson knows the Montreal Canadiens are a struggling team, but that doesn't mean he's lost sight of them in his rearview mirror.
Mike Comrie had a goal and an assist to lead the Ottawa Senators to a 5-3 win Saturday over the Canadiens and a sweep of the home-and-home series between the two clubs.
Mike Fisher, Chris Kelly, Wade Redden and Jason Spezza also scored for the Senators (32-22-3), who moved three points over the reeling Canadiens (29-22-6) in the Eastern Conference standings.
"Throughout the season everyone goes through cycles," said Alfredsson, who had two assists. "We're only three points ahead of them, that's not a lot.
"Right now they're in a down period, like we were earlier in the year. The big thing for every team is to try and keep those slumps as short as possible."
Steve Begin scored in his return from a 27-game stint on the injured list with back spasms while Michael Ryder and Andrei Markov added goals for the Canadiens, who allowed the first goal for an eighth game in a row. They're 2-5-1 over that span.
"It's a great feeling, but it would have been better if we came out with the win in the end," Begin said.
"Sometimes it seems like we're the better team out there, but then we make a few mistakes and we end up trailing by a few goals."
The Senators maintained a fourth-place tie with Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference with 67 points.
The Canadiens are in sixth with 64 points, only two points head of the ninth-place Toronto Maple Leafs.
"Two wins against Montreal, who we're so close with, is really important for us at this point in the game," Fisher said. "I think it's going to give us confidence down the stretch."
Though the Canadiens lost the two games against the Senators by a combined scored of 9-4, head coach Guy Carbonneau wasn't that upset with his team's effort.
"No matter what all of you think, I feel we played two good games against the Senators and we lost 4-1 and 5-3," he said. "But we still make mistakes that cost us goals."
Ray Emery made 37 saves for the Senators to get his 24th win of the season, but he lost his cool in the second when he swung his stick and hit Canadiens
forward Maxim Lapierre in the face, drawing a minor for slashing.
"I didn't mean to hit him that high," said Emery, who challenged Lapierre to fight him.
"I like that stuff for the most part, I just feel bad when my team is disadvantaged because of it. I definitely wanted to fight him, but he just skated to the bench."
Redden admitted he was hoping the fight would happen.
"We've been waiting for a while up here and it hasn't happened yet," Redden said. "I'm sure the volcano's rumbling down there, and at some point some unlucky guy's going to feel it."
Carbonneau, however, did not see the humour in the incident.
"I hope the NHL reviews that play because that was intent to injure," Carbonneau said.
"If Max isn't wearing a visor there, he'd have a broken nose."
David Aebischer made 25 saves for Montreal to lose his second straight start. It was the fourth time in the last eight games Montreal has allowed at least four goals.
"They need to be better, that's a fact," Carbonneau said of Aebischer and fellow netminder Cristobal Huet. "They were good at the start of the year, they've just lost their rhythm and they need to find it again."
Canadiens winger Sergei Samsonov made his return to the lineup after a three-game stint in coach Guy Carbonneau's doghouse, while Markov returned after missing the last three games with a strained knee. Carbonneau benched winger Alex Kovalev for most of the third period after his turnover led to Fisher's goal 17 seconds into the third period.
"A mistake at the wrong time," Carbonneau said to explain the benching.
The Senators went ahead 5-2 with two quick strikes at the start of the third period, putting the game out of reach. Alfredsson's wrist shot from the side boards went in off Fisher 17 seconds into the third, and Spezza one-timed a Dany Heatley feed off a 2-on-1 rush at 3:31 for his 22nd goal of the year. Montreal cut the lead to 5-3 on the power play at 5:04 when Markov fired home a rebound.
Ottawa jumped out to a quick lead at 2:10 of the first when Comrie's slapshot from the left circle beat Aebischer through the legs for his 13th goal of the season, and his sixth in 16 games as a Senator.
The Senators went ahead 2-0 when a loose puck jumped over Niinimaa's stick right to Comrie, whose shot went off the post but was banged in by Kelly at 10:26.
The second period featured lots of action with three goals and 11 penalties, including fighting majors for Chris Neil and Mike Komisarek just moments after they stepped out of the box.
The Canadiens got to within one at 5:01 when Mike Johnson beat Emery to a dump-in behind the net and fed Begin in front.
Ryder tied it up for Montreal with a power play goal at 9:14, tipping home a Sheldon Souray point for his16th of the year and his first in eight games.
The Sens regained the lead at 16:37 on a 4-on-3 power play, with Redden firing a perfect wrist shot top corner.
Notes: Canadiens D Craig Rivet missed his second game due to a bout of pneumonia. . . . The lone scratch for the Senators was winger Brian McGrattan. . . . Montreal scratched wingers Alexander Perezhogin, Aaron Downey and Garth Murray.