OTTAWA (AP)Jake Allen made 22 saves, Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher each had a goal and an assist, and the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Ottawa Senators 4-1 on Thursday night for their third consecutive win.
Paul Byron and Corey Perry provided the rest of the offense for Montreal, which blanked the Edmonton Oilers 4-0 some 48 hours earlier in the Canadiens’ return to action after a week off with two players in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol.
”It was good that we played right away,” Allen said. ”We were jumping right into it with (Connor) McDavid, (Leon) Draisaitl. It didn’t give you time to think.”
Jake Evans had two assists for his first two-point game of his career. Tomas Tatar added two assists for Montreal.
”That break really helped us,” Evans said. ”We had some (video conference) calls just to clarify a lot of things.”
Allen picked up his first victory since making 34 stops in a 2-1 win over the Senators on Feb. 6.
”It just goes to show the preparation the guys have,” Allen said of his team’s response coming out of its unplanned break. ”You had to take care of yourself.”
Connor Brown scored for Ottawa, while Filip Gustavsson made 34 saves. The Senators played for the first time since losing 3-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs in overtime on March 25 thanks to a schedule break following the Canadiens’ COVID-19 issues.
”Our intensity level was rusty,” Ottawa coach D.J. Smith said. ”You’ve got to get that compete level at 100.”
Montreal won three straight for the first time since the end of January, and occupies the fourth and final playoff spot in the North Division, six points up on both the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks, with four games in hand.
”A good cultured team always finds a way to win without a superstar,” Danault said. ”We all stick to the system, game after game, whoever’s in or not.
”That’s how you win.”
The Canadiens are also now just four points back of the Oilers in the standings, with four games in hand.
”It shows the dedication of our team,” Danault added. ”We knew we had a week off, but nobody took it for granted.”
Ottawa, meanwhile, had its five-game point streak (2-0-3) come to an end in dropping to 3-3-0 against the Canadiens this season.
The teams were supposed to play Sunday in Montreal, but that game was the fourth of four contests postponed after Canadiens forwards Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Joel Armia went into COVID-19 protocol. One of the players in question tested positive for a variant of concern.
Montreal and Ottawa were also scheduled to hit the ice Tuesday in the nation’s capital, but that game was rescheduled to allow the Canadiens and Oilers, who were slated to play three times last week, to get in at least one of the postponed games.
”We’ve got to play harder,” Senators winger Nick Paul said. ”We came out with our legs moving. From there, we just kind of died off.”
After coming close early when Nick Suzuki hit the post, Montreal opened the scoring at 10:48 of the first period on a lucky break. Gallagher’s initial shot from the right side pinballed off Ottawa center Colin White and defenseman Thomas Chabot in front to Danault, who fired his third of the season into a wide-open net.
The line of Danault, Gallagher and Tatar combined for six points, and has six goals and 10 assists over the past three games.
”We’ve built a lot of chemistry,” Danault said. ”We (complement) each other really well.”
Without a goal in his past eight games coming into Thursday, Senators rookie Tim Stutzle was flying early with a couple of slick setups that just failed connect before a nice individual effort that Allen turned aside.
Ottawa got a power play that stretched from the end of the first into middle period, but the Canadiens doubled their lead 48 seconds after the break when Byron took a pass from Evans and backhanded his third goal upstairs on Gustavsson following some poor coverage in the Senators end.
The goal was Montreal’s league-leading eighth short-handed goal of the season, and first since the 11th game of the season.
The Senators had an excellent opportunity to get back within one, but Allen, who played for the first time since March 19, made a desperation stick save on Brady Tkachuk.
Suzuki then moved in alone on a breakaway only to have both his initial shot and rebound effort stopped by Gustavsson as the visitors led by two through 40 minutes.
Montreal winger Josh Anderson hit another post early in the third, but Perry scored his seventh of the season, and fourth in the past nine games, upstairs to make it 3-0 at 4:43.
”I’ve played behind a few good teams in the past,” said Allen, a 2019 Stanley Cup champion with St. Louis. ”Tonight felt like I was behind one of those really good teams again.”
Gallagher scored at 10:04 with his 14th, and third in as many games, off a pass from Danault to make it 4-0 before Brown broke Allen’s shutout bid with under two minutes to go on a power play with his eighth.
NOTES: White left the game with an upper-body injury in the second period. … Montreal will play a total of 17 games in April. … Ottawa announced the team has signed defenseman Jacob Bernard-Docker, a first-round pick in 2018, and center Shane Pinto, a second-round pick in 2019, to three-year entry-level contracts.
The teams wrap up the two-game home-and-home set at Montreal on Saturday night.
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