MONTREAL - Alex Kovalev made a triumphant return from his two-game banishment by the Montreal Canadiens, scoring a goal and adding two assists in a 5-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.
Kovalev, sent home Tuesday by general manager Bob Gainey to rest and ponder his weak season, got an enthusiastic ovation from the 21,273 spectators in the pre-game warm-up, then went out and had one of his best games as the Canadiens (31-22-7) won for the first time in four games and only the fourth time in their last 16.
Tomas Plekanec, with his fifth goal in five games, Mathieu Schneider, Patrice Brisebois and Mathieu Dandenault also scored for Montreal in its first game back after a dismal 1-4-1 road trip. The Canadiens scored on their first three power-play chances and are now 7-for-12 with the man advantage since Schneider was acquired Monday from Atlanta.
Dany Heatley scored twice and Jarkko Ruutu had the other for Ottawa (22-27-9). Defenceman Chris Campoli, acquired Friday along with Mike Comrie in a trade from the New York Islanders, had two assists.
The Senators are 0-2-1 in their last three games and 5-3-2 since Cory Clouston replaced Craig Hartsburg behind the bench.
Ottawa starter Brian Elliot was pulled in favour of Alex Auld after allowing three goals on 17 shots at 3:25 of the third period.
The Bell Centre crowd was unusually quiet for the afternoon tilt, but erupted when Kovalev slipped a pass through the slot to Plekanec to the right of the net for a power-play goal 2:23 into the game.
Kovalev stripped Chris Phillips of the puck in the Ottawa zone, went in alone and beat Elliot with a wrist shot at 5:38.
Schneider picked the far, top corner from the right point on a power play 3:25 into the second and Brisebois had all the time he wanted to tee up and blast in a goal at 6:47 after Ottawa's Chris Kelly lost his stick during a penalty kill.
The Senators then turned up the pace and Ruutu picked up Jesse Winchester's rebound and beat Jaroslav Halak from a tight angle at 7:40.
Only 2:09 later, Heatley beat Plekanec to a puck at the edge of the crease and backhanded in his sixth goal in the last six games.
With 19 seconds left in the period, the Ottawa defence was napping as Dandenault was left alone to fire Roman Hamrlik's rebound into an open side.
The Senators had two-man advantages twice in the third frame and there were three seconds left in the second one when Heatley banged in Jason Spezza's pass at 17:06.
Kovalev had not scored in 10 games and had his first three-point game since Nov. 1.
Ottawa now returns for an eight-game homestand that begins Tuesday night against Carolina. The Canadiens play host to Vancouver on Tuesday.
Notes: Daniel Alfredsson was a surprise starter for Ottawa. The Sens' captain missed only one game after breaking his jaw this week in Colorado. He wore a full face shield. . . Comrie played on Mike Fisher's line with Nick Foligno. . . Christoph Schubert, Brendan Bell and Alexandre Picard didn't play for the Sens, while Georges Laraque, Francis Bouillon and Steve Begin were scratched for Montreal. Bouillon has a suspected lower body injury.