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Senators seek breakthrough over stingy Canadiens

by Brian Hunter
CANADIENS (28-32-11) at SENATORS (36-25-10)


Last 10:
Montreal 4-5-1; Ottawa 5-3-2

Season Series:
Fifth of six meetings between these Northeast Division rivals and the conclusion of a home-and-home that began Wednesday in Montreal with the Canadiens claiming a 3-2 win over the Senators in the shootout. The Habs are now 3-0-1 in this season's series, with Ottawa's only victory also coming 3-2 via the shootout on Jan. 14.

Big Story:
It's been a trying season for the Canadiens in general and Carey Price in particular. The workhorse goalie, whose 60 games rank him fourth in the NHL and 3,639 minutes second, is also second in the League with 35 losses. However, he's looked like a Vezina Trophy candidate against the Senators, posting a 1.69 goals-against average and .947 save percentage in four starts, giving up just seven goals in 249 minutes.

Team Scope:

While the playoffs are all but mathematically out of reach, Montreal still has time to escape the Eastern Conference basement and surge several spots up the standings. The Canadiens looked poised to make a move, entering Friday's action on a 3-0-1 stretch. They were outshot 37-26 by the Senators on Wednesday at Bell Centre, but Price proved stingy once again. He followed up 35 saves in regulation with three more stops in the shootout, and David Desharnais had the only goal of the penalty-shot tiebreaker for the Habs. Desharnais and Erik Cole scored in regulation.

"The funny thing is we haven't been practicing it either," Price said in regards to shootouts -- the Canadiens have now won three straight after starting 2-8 this season. "I don't know if it's confidence or what, but our team seems to be doing well in them."

Senators: Coming out of Wednesday's game with just a single point was a missed opportunity for Ottawa to draw even with Boston in the Northeast standings, but a division title remains within the Senators' grasp if they can make a strong push over their final 11 regular-season games. They rallied twice against the Canadiens -- Colin Greening scored just 26 seconds after Cole's goal in the first period, and the tying score in the third came courtesy of defenseman Erik Karlsson, who continued to build his Norris Trophy credentials with his 19th goal and 70th point of the season.

"We created a lot of chances," forward Jason Spezza said in the Ottawa Citizen. "At times we played well, and at times we let them slow the game down too much and played too much neutral-zone ping pong.

"They're playing a real strict system right now and it makes it difficult. And when you get to a shootout, it's 50-50. So we'll take the point, regroup, watch the tape and figure out what we have to do better."

Who's Hot:
Max Pacioretty has 5 goals and 7 assists during a seven-game points streak for the Canadiens. Cole (4-1-5) and Desharnais (2-2-4) have three-game points streaks active. P.K. Subban has 4 goals and 5 assists in his last nine games. … Ben Bishop is 2-0-2 with a 2.16 GAA and .926 save percentage in four starts since the Senators recalled him. Karlsson has 4 goals in as many games. 

Injury Report: Montreal defenseman Tomas Kaberle missed Wednesday's game due to the birth of a child. Defenseman Alexei Emelin was sidelined by an upper-body injury and forward Scott Gomez by a concussion. Defenseman Raphael Diaz (lower body) and forwards Brian Gionta (biceps surgery), Mike Blunden (knee), Travis Moen (upper body) and Mathieu Darche (upper body) are on injured reserve. … Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson (lacerated finger) is on injured reserve.

Stat Pack: Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov, who recently returned to the lineup from a knee injury, played his first game at Bell Centre in a span of 487 days, dating back to Nov. 13, 2010, against the Hurricanes. … Karlsson will break the Senators' franchise record for goals by a defenseman in a season -- he's currently tied with Steve Duchesne, who had 19 during the 1996-97 season.

Puck Drop:
Montreal has taken both matchups this season at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, though the players credited with the game-winning goals have both since been traded -- Mike Cammalleri to Calgary and Andrei Kostitsyn to Nashville.
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