OTTAWA — One week ago the Ottawa Senators were frustrated and dejected, but three wins in a span of seven days has changed their outlook.
Saturday night the Senators (23-23-3) capped the week with an impressive 5-0 win over the divisional rival Montreal Canadiens.
This came following a 6-2 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs Friday night allowing the Senators to feel like things are moving in the right direction.
“Our pace is faster,” said Claude Giroux, who led the way with a pair of goals and an assist. “We make plays, smart plays, not really high risk and we’re playing good defence right now that is giving us offence, so you know we’ve just got to keep pushing here.”
Solid goaltending has also been a factor.
Anton Forsberg, who stopped 28 shots, played again Saturday as Cam Talbot remains sidelined with a lower body injury.
“Forsberg, he was the best player,” said Senators coach D.J. Smith. “I don't know what the chances are, but they had lots in the first period. They had some posts and that's expected maybe on a back-to-back. We were a little flat coming out, but I thought as the game went on, we got to the net a bit and we got some turnovers.”
This marked the second of four games between the two clubs, which the Senators have both won, but Canadiens coach Martin St. Louis still liked a lot of what he saw from his team.
“I liked all of our game for the most part, except for maybe in the third we had some challenges getting to the net,” said St. Louis. “We take a penalty and then we get a power play, but have trouble getting in the zone and had a lack of execution.
"The intentions were right, but I would have liked to have seen us have more shots in the third.”
Alex DeBrincat, Mathieu Joseph and Derick Brassard also scored for Ottawa, while Sam Montembeault stopped 31 shots for the Canadiens (20-26-4).
Owen Beck made his NHL debut after being recalled from the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League on an emergency basis Friday.
“It was a whirlwind 24 hours,” said Beck. “It was super cool going to dinner with (Nick) Suzuki and the guys, like I mentioned earlier today. A lot of special things from my rookie lap to my first shift and the rest of the game and the people that were here to see me.
"It was a great experience. Obviously, not the result we wanted, but hopefully there’s lots more games to come that we’ll win.”
The teams play again Tuesday night in Montreal.
Trailing 3-0 the Canadiens looked to get back in the game, but were unable to beat Forsberg despite having two power-play opportunities. Joseph added an empty-net goal with just over one minute in regulation leading the numerous Montreal fans on hand to head for the exit and Brassard made it 5-0.
Scoreless after the first period the Senators took control in the second scoring three unanswered goals.
“I think in the second period we had a couple of (penalty kills) and we lost momentum a little bit," said Christian Dvorak. “They were opportunistic on their chances and I think that cost us the game.”
DeBrincat picked up his 16th of the season scoring on a 2-on-1 to open the scoring just 22 seconds into the period.
Giroux then scored a pair of goals, the first coming off a great feed from rookie Ridly Greig on the power play. He then made it 3-0 banking a shot off Montreal’s Arber Xhekaj.
Greig, playing in just his third NHL game, has made an immediate impact and seems to have natural chemistry playing on a line with Giroux and DeBrincat.
“(It’s) not by communicating because he doesn’t really talk,” said Giroux. “He’s fun to play with. He competes, he’s a very smart player and brings energy to the line and we’re just having fun.”
Greig nearly had his first NHL goal as Giroux looked to make the pass, but instead hit Xhekaj’s skate.
“I think if it goes through he’s got an empty-netter, but we’ll take it,” Giroux said.
Ottawa LW Tyler Motte returned to the lineup after missing the last 15 games. LW Austin Watson was a healthy scratch. Montreal D Chris Wideman was a healthy scratch for the Canadiens with Jonathan Kovacevic taking his place.
The Senators and Canadiens will meet again Tuesday night in Montreal.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 28, 2023.
Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press