Hockey

Senators prove too sharp for Canadiens

Chris Neil had a goal and an assist as the Ottawa Senators beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-2 on Monday night.

The Montreal Canadiens paid tribute Monday to one of their greatest defenceman, then paid the price for shoddy defence in a loss to the Ottawa Senators.

Dany Heatley had a goal and two assists and Jason Spezza set up three goals, as the visiting Senators skated to a 4-2 victory over the Canadiens before a capacity crowd of 21,273 at the Bell Centre.

Heatley halted a six-game scoring drought, while Spezza notched his first points in three games after being shelved six games by a strained groin.

"Trying not to think about it, that is the trick," Heatley said. "You are going to go through stretches like that.

"But we were getting chances and still generating offence. Sometimes, the puck doesn't go in."

"This is the first one I really felt like I was back to full throttle," Spezza said. "We had three points each.

"But I think we could have had five or six each if most of our chances went in. We did a good job finding each other."

Ottawa improved to 3-0-0 versus Montreal this season, winning the first two meetings at Scotiabank Place.

"To win against those guys, we have to play a lot tighter defensively," Canadiens captain Saku Koivu said.

Chris Neil had a goal and an assist, while Patrick Eaves and Chris Kelly rounded out the scoring for the Senators (16-3-0).

Martin Gerber rebounded nicely from last Saturday's 3-0 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, stopping 36 of 38 shots for the win.

"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."

"You concentrate on trying to win every game," Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson noted. "I think you have just got to go out and give it everything you have every night."

Guillaume Latendresse and Christopher Higgins scored for the Canadiens (11-6-3), who retired the No. 19 worn by Larry Robinson in a moving pre-game ceremony.

Cristobal Huet had 25 saves in defeat.

"You have to play a perfect game to beat them," Canadiens head coach Guy Carbonneau said.

Eaves strikes early

Eaves opened the scoring 3:47 into the contest during a power play, converting Alfredsson's centring pass for his fourth goal of the season.

Ottawa took a 2-0 lead when Spezza flipped a backhand pass into the slot for Neil, who notched his third at 8:47 of the first period.

"We played well in the first and it kind of continued through the game," Heatley said.

Montreal cut the deficit to 2-1 on a power-play goal by Latendresse, who backhanded a bouncing puck between Gerber's pads for his fourth at 10:18 of the second period.

But the Senators restored their two-goal advantage, as Neil's blind pass set up Heatley in front for his ninth with 5:25 left in the period.

"I'm just happy it went in," Heatley said. "As long as you get chances, you're going to score."

Kelly put Ottawa ahead 4-1 just 76 seconds into the third period, cruising through the slot in time to bury a Heatley rebound for his fourth.

Higgins brought the Canadiens back to within two goals at the 4:31 mark, beating Gerber with a low shot from his off-wing for his seventh.

"Our defensive play was pretty bad," Higgins pointed out. "All four of their goals were from the slot or in tight in front of the net.

"We cannot play run and gun with a team with skill like that. We don't have the skill to go up and down the ice with them."

With files from the Canadian Press