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NHL Game Summary - Ottawa at Montreal

(Saturday, February 21st)

Final Score: Montreal 5, Ottawa 3

Montreal, QC (Sports Network) - In his first game back from an organization- backed two-game absence, Alex Kovalev posted a goal and two assists as Montreal topped Ottawa, 5-3, at Bell Centre.

Kovalev had been sent home by Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey on Tuesday, citing the Russian veteran's lack of energy and emotion, but allowed him to come back for this contest.

"I was joking with my teammates. It feels like I just got traded here and started all over again," said Kovalev. "I was able to get rid of bad thoughts and got bad things out of my mind. Just to get the win was most important, to settle everything and give us confidence to continue for the rest of the season."

Tomas Plekanec, Mathieu Schneider, Mathieu Dandenault and Patrice Brisebois also lit the lamp for the Canadiens, who halted a three-game losing streak in their first home contest after going 1-4-1 on a six-game road trip.

Jaroslav Halak was strong in net, making 44 saves for the win.

Dany Heatley scored a pair of goals for the Senators, who have dropped three in a row. Jarkko Ruutu also tallied while Jason Spezza assisted on two goals.

Starter Brian Elliott allowed three goals on 17 shots and was pulled for Alex Auld, who suffered the loss after giving up two scores on 15 shots.

Although Ottawa didn't connect on its first two-man advantage early in the third period, Heatley converted a Spezza pass on a 5-on-3 power play with 2:54 left in regulation and the Sens got within 5-3.

Auld was pulled for an extra skater with 1:30 to go, and the Sens narrowly missed a chance to come within a goal from a scramble in the crease. Halak and the Habs defense swept the puck out of trouble, then kept the visitors in check the rest of the way.

"We played hard, did a lot of good things, had a lot of shots but couldn't get the goal when it mattered," said Senators forward Chris Campoli. "You have to give them credit, they did the right things and got the goals when it mattered."

Kovalev began the contest strongly, hitting Plekanec with a pass to put the Habs on the board at 2:23, then used one of his trademark wristers to make it 2-0 at 5:38.

Schneider's power-play score 3:25 into the second made it a three-goal game and Elliott was pulled for Auld. The move didn't pay off as Brisebois added another goal with the advantage at 6:47.

"The defenseman's role is much bigger the last couple of years," said Habs captain Saku Koivu. "When you have a guy like Schneider back there, he can make plays, but more important, can shoot the puck the way he can. It makes a big difference."

Ottawa struck back with two goals in succession, by Ruutu at 7:40 and Heatley at 9:49, but Montreal finished the period strongly, going up 5-2 on a Dandenault rebound goal with 19 seconds to go.

Game Notes

Roman Hamrlik added two assists for the Canadiens...Campoli added two helpers for Ottawa in his first contest after being dealt from the New York Islanders on Thursday...The contest was the first during the annual "Hockey Day in Canada," which features all six Canadian clubs in action on Saturday...The Canadiens have won five straight meetings, including all three this season...There were 21 penalties in the game, 12 to Montreal.

02/21 18:44:55 ET

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