Daniel Alfredsson scored the game-tying goal and added two assists in his return as the Ottawa Senators defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-2 Saturday night at the Bell Centre.
The Senators' captain registered his 95th, 96th, and 97th points against the Northeast division rival Canadiens, a total amassed in just 73 career contests.
"It's a great boost for us, not only his skill but that's what his leadership is, by going out there and leading by example, working hard every time he's on the ice and being reliable," teammate Chris Phillips said. "That's what he's all about and it's a big mental boost for everyone to see him back in there."
Montreal carried the action early in the first period, but rookie goaltender Mike Brodeur was solid, turning aside 12 of 13 shots.
"I was a little nervous, but that's when you play best," said Brodeur.
The Habs' leading scorer, Tomas Plekanec, was dangerous, firing a wrister from the slot midway through the initial frame. Brodeur blocked the attempt, but forward Mike Fisher was called for a hooking minor, giving Montreal the advantage.
However, it was the Senators who capitalized.
Alfredsson set up Zack Smith for his first NHL goal, in his first game back from injury.
The shifty forward caused a turnover in the neutral zone, sending Smith on a breakaway. The youngster took the defenceman wide and beat Carey Price in the top corner for the short-handed goal.
"We were joking that I hit a post the other night at Madison Square Garden, but to get the goal here in front of these fans was pretty special," said Smith. "I was just trying to get it on net.
"In one respect, you're happy just to be here, but you also want to contribute."
Montreal wasted little time tying the game.
Forward Benoit Pouliot scored at the 12:49 mark. After speedy forward Brian Gionta found a waiting Scott Gomez in the left corner, the former New Jersey Devil and New York Ranger sent a cross-ice pass rink wide that Pouliot one-timed through Brodeur, making the score 1-1.
The Canadiens took the lead at 2:05 of the second.
Plekanec solved Brodeur with a shot from a bad angle. After a blast from the point went up and over the Sens net, Plekanec grabbed the loose puck in the right corner and put it on net, fooling the rookie netminder. It was his 11th goal of the year.
But it was not enough on this night for Montreal, as leading goal scorer Mike Cammalleri saw it.
"I just wish we wouldn't have left it to a game where we had to tie it up in the last two minutes," Cammalleri said. "I thought tonight was our game to come out and compete and win at home and we didn't do that."
Alfredsson continued his impressive comeback with the tying marker just one minute 40 seconds later.
After missing the last 11 games with a separated shoulder, Alfredsson beat Price between the legs for his 10th of the season.
"It was a lot of fun to be back playing, obviously, and in a building like this as well," said Alfredsson. "Our penalty killing and goaltending were really solid."
Ottawa retook the lead when Phillips' slapshot beat Price on the glove side. The Ottawa defenceman pinched in, collected the puck and powered it past the struggling netminder. Plekanec appeared to redirect the shot, changing the direction, and helping the Senators take a 3-2 lead.
Late in the third, Ottawa defenceman Erik Karlsson was whistled for tripping. On the ensuing power play, Brodeur stymied the Habs, stopping all five shots, including a point-blank snap-shot from Gomez from the right circle.
"The guys did a great job blocking shots, especially on the power play. There were shots I didn't see," said Brodeur.
Fisher added an empty net goal with less than 30 seconds left in regulation, sealing the game for the Senators. Alfredsson assisted on the insurance marker.
Issues with discipline
The Senators took six minor penalties, giving the home team several odd-man chances. Ottawa's penalty kill held firm, blanking the NHL's best power play each time.
The Habs power play was sloppy, fumbling with the puck. Brodeur made a number of quality saves during 12 minutes on the penalty kill.
Brodeur finished the game with 29 saves, and improved his record to 3-0-0 on the season.
Scary moment early
Less than one minute into the game, Montreal defenceman Andrei Markov took a stick in the face from Ottawa's Anton Volchenkov.
The Sens blue-liner had his stick lifted by Cammalleri, and caught Markov on the right cheek. No penalty was called.
Markov missed the majority of the season after he was cut by goaltender Carey Price on the NHL's opening night against the Toronto Maple Leafs Oct. 1.
The Russian has been key to the Canadiens' success, especially with the man-advantage. Montreal's power play is soaring since his return, capitalizing on an impressive 44 per cent of their chances in 13 games.With files from The Canadian Press