MONTREAL - It's often said that having two capable goaltenders is a good problem for a coach to have, but Ottawa Senators head coach John Paddock doesn't see it as a problem at all.
Martin Gerber stopped 12 of the 13 shots he saw through two periods of action and Jason Spezza had a goal and an assist as the Ottawa Senators extended their pre-season win streak to three games with a 2-1 victory Saturday over the Montreal Canadiens.
Gerber is getting a lot of action as incumbent starter Ray Emery continues to recover from wrist surgery, and Paddock feels that if the two can push each other for space in the crease the Senators will be better for it.
"It gives us good depth in goal," Paddock said. "It creates a bit of healthy competition so it's not a problem, good or bad."
Shean Donovan scored his first goal and Anton Volchenkov had two assists for the Senators (3-0-0), who visit the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday before hosting the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday.
Kyle Chipchura scored his first for the Canadiens (2-3-0), who play their third game in three nights against the Boston Bruins in Halifax on Sunday.
Gerber made his third straight start of the pre-season and continued to make a case for more playing time this year after struggling through last season. He has now stopped 66 of the 68 shots he's seen in his 132 minutes of pre-season action for a .971 save percentage.
He was replaced to start the third by rookie Jeff Glass, who stopped all 12 shots he faced and was particularly strong withstanding a flurry of Canadiens chances late in the third.
Cristobal Huet went the distance for the Canadiens and looked sharp in making 17 saves.
"I think he would like to get that first one back," Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau said. "But he's where I thought he would be. I was happy with his performance."
Ottawa rookie hopeful Nick Foligno, playing on a line with fellow prospect Ilja Zubov and Dany Heatley, was held off the scoresheet for the first time in three pre-season games.
Paddock was most impressed with Spezza, who was zipping all over the ice and showed off his slick stickhandling in setting up Donovan's goal.
"I thought Spezza was clearly the best player on the ice," Paddock said. "If he skates like that all year, he'll be special."
Habs prospect Matt D'Agostini - coming off a two-goal performance in a 3-2 overtime win Friday - got an assist on Chipchura's goal, but it was the all-Belarussian prospect line of Mikhail Grabovski between brothers Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn that was Montreal's most dangerous of the night.
"They were by far the best line on either team," Carbonneau said. "They controlled the puck constantly, they were dangerous, and they did some good things physically without the puck."
When asked if Sergei Kostitsyn - the younger of the two brothers at 20 years old - is "shuffling the deck" with his play in training camp, Carbonneau said, "I think so, you could say that."
The Canadiens power play - ranked number one in the NHL last season - continued to struggle with an 0-for-5 performance and has scored only twice in 33 chances over five pre-season games.
"We moved the puck better tonight, but we're still not shooting the puck as much as we would like to," Carbonneau said. "I am worried, but it doesn't count for much anyway (in the pre-season)."
Spezza opened the scoring at 12:32 of the second period when he broke free on a partial breakaway and beat Huet with a wrist shot from between the circles for his second goal in two pre-season contests.
"I'm just trying to skate well and get in the flow, it's only been two pre-season games so I'm still shaking some rust off," Spezza said. "I looked up and saw he was off his angle, so I just shot it. I saw some net and went for it."
Montreal tied it up 1-1 at 15:44 when Chipchura fought his way to a loose puck in front and slid it past Gerber for his first of the pre-season.
Ottawa re-gained the lead at 17:55 when Spezza undressed Habs defenceman Mark Streit before feeding Donovan in the slot for a one-timer that trickled through Huet.