Canadiens’ Maxim Lapierre celebrates his game-winning shootout goal with teammates Matt D’Agostini and Guillaume Latendresse.
Blair Gable, Reuters
There’s no such thing as a mismatch in the NHL, and tonight’s thrilling 5-4 shootout win by the Canadiens over the Ottawa Senators was clear proof of that.
The high-flying Canadiens, the NHL’s sixth-ranked club, and the bottom-feeding Senators, ranked No. 28, finally went to a shootout, the Habs winning on goals by Maxim Lapierre and Alex Kovalev after Montreal had squandered a 3-1 advantage heading into the final period.
Ottawa finally rallied from a 4-2 deficit, scoring two unanswered goals in the game’s final nine minutes.
Habs goalie Jaroslav Halak saw Jason Spezza fire high and wide in Ottawa’s first shootout attempt before Kovalev used a pretty deke to beat Senators goalie Brian Elliott, who was appearing in his first NHL shootout. Halak followed with a pad save on Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson, which set the stage for Lapierre’s game-winner, also on a deke.
The Canadiens, who never trailed, had regulation-time goals from Kovalev, on a 5-on-3, the sizzling Andrei Kostitsyn, with his seventh goal in his past seven games, and from Matt D’Agostini and Tom Kostopoulos, as well as a two-assist night on crafty passing by Robert Lang.
But they saw Ottawa score three times to their own single in the third period, sending the game into overtime, then the decisive shootout.
The Habs led 1-0 and 3-1 before the Senators’ Dany Heatley scored two third-period goals, sandwiching the fourth of the season from the industrious Kostopoulos. Mike Fisher tied it at 4-4 at 18:13.
The Senators dodged an elephant bullet late in the game and in overtime, Ottawa defenceman Brian Lee nailed for hooking with 20 seconds remaining in regulation for hauling down Guillaume Latendresse on a quick break. The Canadiens forward reasonably sought a penalty shot.
The Canadiens outshot the Senators 32-27 on the night, and were it not for Elliott’s goaltending, this one could have been over much earlier.
Montreal is 11-2-1 in its last 14 games, having run up a terrific record since Dec. 18. The Senators, meanwhile, failed in their bid for their first three-game winning streak of the season, having plummeted unceremoniously from their brilliant start of last season.
In 91 games head-to-head games against the Senators, the Canadiens now have a record of 45-38-8. The Habs pulled nearer a .500 record in the nation’s capital, now 20-22-3.
Tonight’s contest marked the start of a five-game road swing for the Canadiens, interrupted by next weekend’s all-star break. Montreal travels to Atlanta and New Jersey on Tuesday and Wednesday, then returns to action down south vs. Tampa Bay and Florida on Jan. 27 and 29.