MONTREAL — After a difficult start, the Ottawa Senators appear to be back on track.
Captain Brady Tkachuk scored at 18:41 of the third period to lift the Senators to a wild 5-4 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night.
Montreal had a third-period surge thanks to Rafael Harvey-Pinard’s two goals but the Sens threw a cold shower on the Bell Centre. Tim Stutzle, who scored two goals and added two assists, combined with the Sens captain on the late goal and grabbed the win for Ottawa.
The surging Senators (24-23-3) will head into the NHL All-Star break with a sense of accomplishment, tying a season-high four-game winning streak.
“It was big, I mean, getting a couple of middle fingers from a couple of fans. Chucky loved it,” said Stutzle about the winning goal. “Everyone knows he's there for big moments and I think that was really big, giving us four wins before the break. I think now everybody can go into the break positive and happy.”
Alex DeBrincat and Claude Giroux also found the back of the net for the visitors while Anton Forsberg made 28 saves.
For a team that was soul searching, the Senators found character wins in the past week. Ottawa took down the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-2 on Friday before grabbing back-to-back wins against the Habs.
“In rivalry games, I think both teams are going to bring their best,” Tkachuk said. “So for us to come out on top with all three games, I think it does say a lot about our character and how whenever we're playing our game we're a tough team to beat.”
Kirby Dach and Mike Hoffman also scored for Montreal (20-27-4), which dropped its fourth in a row.
Jake Allen made 24 saves for the Canadiens and kept the dreaded Reverse Retro curse going as they hold a 0-6-1 record wearing light blue.
“It’s a mix of emotions,” said Canadiens coach Martin St. Louis. “I didn’t like our first period but we fought in the second and the third. Of course you lose the game but on the hockey side of things and what we showed so I’m happy with the group.”
St. Louis particularly liked Harvey-Pinard, who has been red-hot since his recall from the AHL's Laval Rocket on Jan. 11. The 24-year-old seems unaffected by the Reverse Retro curse, grabbing his second two-goal game in light blue and adding six points (five goals, one assist) in seven games.
“HP is showing us what he’s able to do," said St. Louis. "I saw him a bit last year, I heard about him and I’m starting to discover who he is as well. He’s a guy you notice on the ice."
“(The recall) is going well right now,” said Harvey-Pinard. “I’m still not 100 per cent satisfied with the little details but I think I’m doing a good job so I just need to play with consistency.”
The Senators had a superb start scoring two goals on their first three shots. Standing in front of the net, Giroux redirected Nikita Zaitsev’s wrist shot from atop the right faceoff circle to open the scoring at 2:57.
Ottawa took a two-goal lead 52 seconds later when Mathieu Joseph’s pass into the offensive zone hit Jordan Harris and fell straight to Stutzle. The German swiftly shot the puck over Allen’s shoulder to net his 21st goal of the season.
Montreal cut the Sens’ lead in half on the power play at 13:12 of the opening frame. In the crease, Nick Suzuki managed to slide the puck under Forsberg and Dach finally tapped the puck past the goal line.
After being robbed by Allen with a glove save earlier in the second frame, DeBrincat exacted his revenge on the man-advantage. Stutzle sent a cross-ice pass and the winger completed the one-timer to regain Ottawa’s two-goal cushion.
Jake Sanderson took a tripping penalty late in the second period, giving Montreal another chance to bridge the gap. With five seconds left, Hoffman slapped home a pass from Mike Matheson to make it a 3-2 game heading into the second intermission.
Harvey-Pinard tied the game 3-3 in the final frame. The Saguenay, Que., native tapped in a pass sent across the slot from Suzuki.
Ottawa responded with a power-play goal just over one minute later. Stutzle scored his second of the night by beating Allen with a wrister from atop the right faceoff circle.
Harvey-Pinard wasn’t done there. The winger snagged the puck from Sanderson and bagged his second of the night at 14:16.
The Sens had the last laugh, however, when Stutzle combined with Tkachuk to ice the game at 18:41 of the final frame.
50 IN 50
With an assist on Tim Stutzle’s goal, Brady Tkachuk reached the 50-point mark in his 50th game of the season. He became the fastest Senator to reach that mark since 2018-19.
Tkachuk and Stutzle combined for a 49th and 50th goal since the German joined the Senators in 2020-21, tying Tkachuk and Drake Batherson’s partnership of 50.
The Canadiens will host the New York Islanders on Feb. 11.
The Senators will welcome the Edmonton Oilers on Feb. 11.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 31, 2023.
Tristan D'Amours, The Canadian Press