OTTAWA — The Montreal Canadiens know they need a lot more games like Saturday if they have any hope of getting back in the playoff picture.
The Canadiens beat the Ottawa Senators 3-0 thanks to a pair of goals from Max Domi and a shutout performance from Carey Price.
Price stopped 30 shots for his fourth shutout of the season, while Paul Byron also scored.
“I think we brought it for a full 60 minutes and in order to win in this league that’s what you’ve got to do,” said Domi. “Our whole group played great and we’ve got to regroup and get ready for the next one.”
Montreal (29-27-8) currently sits six points back of third in the Atlantic Division and eight points out of the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with 18 regular-season games to go.
Playing without Tyler Ennis and Vladislav Namestnikov, both healthy scratches, the Senators (21-30-11) also lost Thomas Chabot midway through the first and struggled to create anything offensively.
Craig Anderson made 32 saves in defeat.
Saturday’s game could potentially be Anderson’s last with the Senators as his name has been mentioned among those who could be on the move by Monday’s trade deadline.
When asked if he had given any thought to the fact he said “nope.”
Ottawa’s Brady Tkachuk was a thorn in Montreal’s side all night. Tkachuk got under Price’s skin right from the start and drew a penalty as the Montreal goaltender punched him in the head. Tkachuk finished the game with nine hits and three shots.
“I was just having fun out there,” said Price. “He’s a player that likes going to the front of the net and we just kind of hugged it out a little bit.”
In just his second year Tkachuk has already made himself an impact player for the Senators and has thrived in games against division rivals.
“It’s a highly emotional game,” said Tkachuk. “Any game between us and Montreal is a pretty emotional, pretty physical game. I’m just going to leave it at that, but it’s a fun atmosphere to play in.”
Tkachuk took a misconduct late in the game and Domi was seen clapping as he left the ice, but had little to say when asked about the incident and Tkachuk’s impact.
“That’s irrelevant to the game so I’m not going to answer that one.”
Holding a 3-0 lead to start the third the Canadiens tightened up defensively and kept the Senators to the outside.
“The guys played really good in front of me,” said Price. I thought we did a great job of pressuring the puck up ice and we really didn’t give them much and I was able to make a couple saves. Everyone was on point (Saturday).”
An Ottawa turnover allowed Ilya Kovalchuk to find Byron all alone out front to beat Anderson at 17:58 of the second.
“(Paul Byron) is probably the most underrated player in the NHL,” said Domi. “He’s unbelievable. I absolutely love playing with a guy like that. He’s got so much speed, works so hard. He’s an absolute warrior and the kind of guy you win with.”
Domi scored twice to give the Canadiens a 2-0 first-period lead.
Domi avoided Anderson’s poke check and then scored off his backhand just 1:13 into the game.
The Senators had a scary moment midway through the period when Chabot went down awkwardly after being checked into the boards by Brendan Gallagher. He struggled to get off the ice and went right to dressing room. Tkachuk took exception to the hit and took on Gallagher.
During the TV timeout Chabot took a brief twirl on the ice, but would not return.
“First off we think (Chabot’s) all right,” said Senators coach D.J. Smith. “It’s nothing major anyways. Certainly, couldn’t have played, but we’re hoping he’s back fairly quickly. It’s a huge loss for us, moving pucks as you saw and then you’re down to five guys early.
“There’s a lot of concern,” he added. “The way he’s played is outstanding here of late and the way he breaks the puck out and manages his ice time and all those things. The development issue of it is these games down the stretch are big for us, developing as a team and the way we want to play and without him certainly we take a hit there."
The Canadiens led by two shortly after as Domi took a bounce off the dasher boards and one-timed it through Anderson’s legs.
Notes: Josh Norris made his NHL debut Saturday night with the Senators. Montreal’s Karl Alzner played his first NHL game since Jan. 10, 2019, after being recalled from Laval of the AHL.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 22, 2020.
Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press