MONTREAL - Erik Cole scored three goals in the opening 5:41 of play as Montreal downed the struggling Ottawa Senators 5-1 in a rare Friday night home game for the Canadiens.
Cole jumped on goaltender Craig Anderson, who returned after missing 12 games from slicing a finger in a kitchen accident, for two goals on Montreal's first four shots. Anderson was pulled at the 4:56 mark in favour of Ben Bishop, but was back in to start the second period.
Cole, with his sixth career hat trick, got his 28th, 29th and 30th of the season. Patteri Nokelainen also scored in the opening frame and Lars Eller got one in the third for Montreal (29-33-13), which went 4-0-2 against Ottawa this season.
Jason Spezza, playing his 600th career game, scored for Ottawa (37-28-10). It gave the 28-year-old 30 goals for a fourth time in his career and the first time since 2008-09.
Ottawa outshot Montreal 38-32 in a long, chippy game with frequent skirmishes after whistles.
The Senators, now in a 1-3-2 skid, are hanging on to seventh place in the Eastern Conference heading into a home game against Pittsburgh on Saturday, when Montreal will play at Philadelphia. The Senators have scored only six goals in their last five games.
Cole scored on the first shot on Anderson, who saw a routine shot go off his glove and into the net only 29 seconds in. Cole put in the rebound of P.K. Subban's shot at 4:56 to chase Anderson.
Cole was on the doorstep to slip in a Subban shot that got behind Bishop at 5:41.
Nokelainen beat Bishop from the left circle at 8:21, but Spezza got his team back after Milan Michalek did good work to feed him in front to beat Carey Price with 13 seconds left in the period.
Eller got Montreal's second power-play goal of the game when his bad-angled shot went in under the cross-bar 5:05 into the third.
Montreal defenceman Yannick Weber left after the first period with a lower body injury.
Notes: Bishop had made the last seven straight starts for Ottawa. Alex Auld didn't dress. . . Spezza's return after missing a game with an illness bumped Bobby Butler from the lineup, while Kaspars Daugavins and Matt Carker didn't dress. . . Spezza has 608 points in 600 games. . . Erik Condra played his 100th game. . . Blake Geoffrion didn't play for Montreal.