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Sens keep rolling with shootout win over Habs

by Arpon Basu
MONTREAL -- With every passing game -- and every passing victory -- the Ottawa Senators continue to prove they are indeed for real.

The Senators very nearly let another one of their trademark third-period comebacks slip away Saturday night, but their captain made sure that didn't happen. Daniel Alfredsson was the lone scorer as the sixth and final shooter in the shootout to give the streaking Senators their eighth win in nine games, 3-2 against the reeling Montreal Canadiens.

It was hardly a clinic for the Senators, who were outshot 21-13 through two periods and produced few legitimate chances on Canadiens goalie Carey Price until the third.

"That's what good teams do, find ways to win when they don't play great," said Alfredsson, who improved to a perfect 4-for-4 in shootouts this season. "We've been playing some really good hockey here. Today wasn't our best but our goalie kept us in it and gave us a chance, and fortunately he's part of our team too.

"We have a good feeling when games are close, and tonight's another example."

Jason Spezza's top-corner slap shot with Tomas Plekanec sitting out the first of a double minor for high sticking at 13:42 of the third gave the Senators a 2-1 lead, but Max Pacioretty got the Canadiens to overtime with Price pulled for an extra attacker, converting a second rebound try off a Chris Campoli point shot with 38.9 seconds to play in regulation for his 13th of the season.

Canadiens defenseman and primary penalty-killer Josh Gorges was called for delay of game with 27.8 seconds to play, but Montreal did not allow the Senators a single shot on goal while playing the first 1:32 of the overtime at a 4-on-3 disadvantage.

"The fact we could be resilient, killing all the penalties we did and getting the goal to send it to overtime, says a little bit about our team as well," coach Randy Cunneyworth said. "Right now it's hard to swallow, but we're OK with it. We're disappointed, but we're OK with it."

The shootout has not been an area the Canadiens have known much success this season; they fell to 1-6 in the tiebreaker while the Senators improved to 5-2.

Kyle Turris scored the tying goal and Craig Anderson continued his outstanding play of late with 33 saves for the streaking Senators (25-15-6), who are 8-0-1 in their last nine games and an astonishing 24-10-6 since starting the season 1-5-0.

"Anderson is playing some pretty good hockey right now," Cunneyworth said. "We tested him often and he was up to the challenge."

Plekanec got the lone goal for the Canadiens (16-21-7) but his penalty for sticking Zack Smith in the mouth 20 seconds before Spezza's game-winner cost his team the lead in a game Montreal could ill-afford to lose with its playoff hopes on life support.

The time for moral victories has long since passed for the Canadiens.

"I think we're headed in the right direction," Price said. "The guys are working hard and I think we deserve better, but we can't keep using that one. So I don't know what to say anymore."

The Canadiens are eight points back of the idle Washington Capitals for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot after Saturday's shootout loss, and there are three teams sitting between them and the Caps. Meanwhile, the Senators opened an eight-point gap on Washington, though the Capitals have four games in hand.

Anderson saw his shutout streak come to an end at 129:28, dating back to Evgeni Malkin's second-period goal in a 5-1 Senators win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday. He has allowed just three goals on 99 shots in his last three games.

"When our team play is good then everybody is good, and I think Andy is the recipient of that," Senators coach Paul MacLean said. "His nights aren't as busy as they had been earlier in the year, but he's an accomplished goalie and he's been real steady."

Price made 23 saves for the Canadiens.

After an opening 40 minutes of scoreless and largely uneventful hockey, Plekanec gave the Canadiens the lead 42 seconds into the third when he converted on his second shorthanded breakaway of the game for his ninth goal of the season and first in seven games.

The Senators came right back to tie it when Turris tipped home a Sergei Gonchar point shot for his second of the season at 5:57.

The Canadiens got the bulk of the shots and scoring chances through 40 minutes, but their season-long trouble with finishing around the net coupled with Anderson's strong play meant the game remained scoreless.

"We've done it enough times where you'll go through stretches where you're not playing great, like today," Alfredsson said. "The goalie kept us in it and we go into the third period tied in a road hockey game, which isn't a bad thing when you know you're not playing very good."

Price had one or two difficult stops to make, but Anderson was tested over and over again almost right from puck drop when he was forced to make a difficult stop on David Desharnais after a Jared Cowen turnover just 1:21 after the opening faceoff.

The Canadiens appeared to have taken the lead at 7:12 when Gorges swept around the net and fed P.K. Subban in the slot, but referee Paul Devorski immediately waved the goal off and called Andrei Kostitsyn for goaltender interference. Kostitsyn appeared to have been ridden into the crease by Senators forward Milan Michalek.

Anderson was able to stop Plekanec on his first shorthanded breakaway of the game at 9:38 of the first when he shut the five-hole, he denied Pacioretty on a glorious chance in tight at 13:20, he stopped a heavy Kostitsyn wrist shot on a partial break at 10:45 of the second and stuffed Erik Cole on a strong rush to the net at 12:40.
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