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Ottawa spoils Robinson's big night in Montreal

by Adam Schwartz
It was an emotional night at the Bell Centre as the Montreal Canadiens retired Larry Robinson's No. 19 prior to their game against the Ottawa Senators.  
It was supposed to be a party.

The Ottawa Senators, however, had other plans.
On the night the Montreal Canadiens raised Larry Robinson’s No. 19 to the rafters, the Senators – the team with the most points in the NHL – put a damper on the night’s events with a 4-2 victory over the Habs in front of 21,273 fans at the Bell Centre.

Although the festivities were moving, Robinson vowed not to get too sentimental. "I'm not going to be a Mark Messier," Robinson said, referring to the Messier’s multiple emotional ceremonies.  

Robinson, who was nicknamed “Big Bird” because of his size, played for the Habs for 17 seasons and during their run of four consecutive Stanley Cup victories (1976-1979).  Robinson was part of the “Big Three” defensemen, which included Hall-of-Famers Serge Savard and Guy Lapointe.

Robinson is now the assistant coach for the New Jersey Devils and has had a successful coaching career, including a Stanley Cup victory with that franchise in 2000.  

The ceremony certainly didn’t faze the Senators. Ottawa got on the scoreboard by scoring a power play goal just 3:47 into the game. Daniel Alfredsson took a loose puck off the left-wing boards and simultaneously shook off a Montreal defender before making a hard pass to Patrick Eaves in front of the net. Eaves fired a one-timer past Montreal goalie Cristobal Huet as the Sens took a 1-0 lead.  
Ottawa doubled its lead when star center Jason Spezza found forward Chris Neil in front of the Montreal net, and the latter was able to tap the puck past Huet at 8:57 of the opening stanza.
Montreal cut the deficit in half when second-year forward Guillaume Latendresse beat Ottawa netminder Martin Gerber with a backhand power-play goal at 10:18 of the middle period.  

But Ottawa regained its two-goal lead at 14:35 of the second period, when Ottawa forward Dany Heatley beat Huet with a wrist shot, which snapped his six-game goalless drought. The Senators went ahead by three just 76 seconds into the third period, when Spezza fed Heatley with a cross-ice pass that found Heatley to the left of the Montreal net and Heatley’s wrist shot by Huet but Ottawa forward Chris Kelly was there to bang in the rebound.

Heatley was happy to see his club rebound after dropping two of its last four contests. The Senators were shut out by the Toronto Maple Leafs in a 3-0 loss on Saturday night.
''Whether we play well or don't play well, we're going to lose a few games this year,'' Heatley said. ''A goal of ours is not to lose two in a row.''
Montreal got back to within two as forward Chris Higgins also put an end to a six-game goalless slump when he blew down the right wing and fired a low shot past Gerber at 4:31 of the third period.

But the Habs would not get any closer to tying the game and failed to convert on five of six power play opportunities. The Canadiens entered the night with the best power play in the league.

''It may look like we had chances there, but if you want to win against those guys, we have to play a lot tighter defensively,'' Montreal captain Saku Koivu said.
With the victory, the Senators improved their record to 16-3-0 (32 points) and lead the Northeast Division and Eastern Conference -- in addition to the President’s Trophy race. Ottawa is now seven points ahead of second-place Montreal in the Northeast.
''I think you concentrate on trying to win every game,'' Alfredsson said. ''It's a nice thing to say that we don't want to lose two in a row. I remember Buffalo did the same thing last year. I personally don't take too much out of it. I think you've just got to go out and give it everything you have every night.''
Ottawa has won three of their last four games and has only lost two games in their last 10. Montreal, meanwhile, has only won one of its past three games and is only four points ahead of the Maple Leafs in the Northeast Division.  
Spezza has gotten back on track after not scoring any points in his prior two games after returning from a six-game absence due to a groin injury. Spezza recorded three assists Monday night.
''Tonight was the night I thought I skated my best and didn't have to think about my groin,'' Spezza said. ''The first two nights, I felt like my groin was hindering me still a little bit.''
Gerber finished with 36 saves for the Senators. The Ottawa netminder has won 13 games in 15 appearances this season.

Material from wire services was used in this report.
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