Bell Centre, Montreal
Tomas Plekanec (MTL) — 1 goal (GWG), 1 assist
Andrei Kostitsyn (MTL) — 1 goal, 1 assist
Milan Michalek (OTT) — 2 goals
A lesson in resiliency.
That was the key to the Montreal Canadiens' game Saturday night in front of a home crowd at the Bell Centre.
After taking an early lead against the Ottawa Senators, Le Bleu-Blanc-et-Rouge gave up three unanswered goals before fighting back to tie the game in the second period and complete the comback late in the third.
Tomas Plekanec scored at 16:01 of the final period to break the tie and give the Canadiens a 4-3 decision.
Montreal improved to 3-1-1 on the season, registering their second straight victory. Carey Price, who was solid aside from a tough stretch in the middle of the second when he allowed two goals on consecutive shots, made 16 saves in the win.
Brian Gionta got the Habs started when he jumped on a turnover by Milan Michalek just 66 seconds into the game, scoring his first goal of the season. The newly anointed captain went in alone on Brian Elliott, faked a shot and beat the goaltender on the backhand, grabbing the early momentum for the home side.
Michalek would get redemption nine minutes later. Captain Daniel Alfredsson charged down the right wing, ripped a slapshot off the bar and Michalek was there to finish the play for his second goal of the year.
After a quiet start to the second frame, Jarkko Ruutu made some sound waves.
The bruising forward got into a skirmish with Scott Gomez, causing a pileup just outside the Ottawa blue-line. Each player was assessed a roughing minor with Ruutu drawing the extra two minutes and a serenade from the boo-birds for instigating the multi-player tussle.
The Senators took some time getting their first shot of the second, but it was a good one. At 10:20, Alfredsson won a battle along the boards and fed countryman Erik Karlsson in the slot, who rocketed a one-timer past Carey Price.
Ottawa's second shot of the period wasn't bad either. Michalek collected a loose puck, executed a nifty toe-drag through the slot and sent a backhand top corner to give his club a two-goal lead.
But the Habs, who had failed to score in the second stanza all season, finally found their touch at 13:39. P.K. Subban fired a shot around the boards to Jeff Halpern, and the Montreal newcomer threw the puck out front, inadvertently banking it off the skate of Chris Campoli and between the legs of Elliott.
Kostitsyn evened it up less than four minutes later with his second goal of the season. The native of Belarus was critical to the Canadiens' success, scoring the tying goal and assisting on the game-winner.
"He's a big part of our team this year," Plekanec said. "Our line is so much stronger when he plays the way he's playing now. He's doing what he's best at — skating, hitting, going to the net. It's nice to see."
The third period opened with a surprise.
Rookie Robin Lehner replaced Elliott after the starting goaltender broke a skate. The former Sault Ste. Marie Greyhound made three saves, including an impressive 3-on-2 stop on a shot by the Canadiens' most dangerous sniper, Mike Cammalleri, before Elliott returned.
Montreal pounded the Sens for the majority of the period and took the lead for good at 16:01. Plekanec started and finished a 2-on-2 rush with Kostitsyn, sliding a pass to his linemate, then jumping on the rebound and beating Elliott five-hole for the game winner.
The Senators pulled their goaltender in a last-gasp effort to tie the game but could not maintain possession in the offensive zone, losing for only the second time in their last nine games versus the Canadiens.
Ottawa fell to 1-3-1 and was dominated in the shots column 40-19. In all five games this year the Senators have failed to score more than three goals in a game, with their only win being a 3-2 victory against Carolina.
Plekanec's late marker gave Montreal its third win of the season. The Canadiens centre distributed a nice pass to Kostitsyn and followed the play to the slot where he collected the rebound and beat Elliott for his second of the year. It was the 28-year-old's 105th career goal and his 14th game-winner.
The beginning of the game wasn't kind to the Senators goaltender.
Making his first official start of the season — he replaced an injured Pascal Leclaire early in Thursday's win over Carolina — the former Wisconsin Badger allowed a goal on the first shot against him, when Gionta grabbed the turnover and out-skated Michalek.
The Newmarket, Ont., native rebounded following the early goal and was a major reason the game was close, making 33 saves in the loss.
Entering Saturday's matchup, Ottawa and Montreal shared one unfortunate statistic, a power-play scoring percentage of less then 10.
The Senators at 5.6 per cent, good for 29th in the league, continued to falter with the man advantage. Early in the first Ottawa went on a two-man advantage, but could not score during over 40 seconds of 5-on-3. They finished the game 0-for-3, dropping to 1-for-21 on the season.
The Canadiens didn't fare much better. At 8.5 per cent and 25th overall, Montreal failed to tally on the power play for the fourth time in five games.
However, It wasn't due to a lack of effort. The Habs peppered Elliott with 11 shots on five power plays. Montreal went 0-for-5 in the game, falling to 1-for-17 on the year.With files from The Canadian Press