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NHL Game Summary - Ottawa at Montreal

(Monday, March 24th)

Final Score: Montreal 7, Ottawa 5

Montreal, QC (Sports Network) - Andrei Kostitsyn scored two goals, as the Montreal Canadiens became the first Eastern Conference team to clinch a playoff spot with a 7-5 win over the Ottawa Senators at the Bell Centre.

Andrei Markov posted a goal and an assist for the Canadiens, who returned to the postseason after a one-year hiatus. Alex Kovalev and Maxim Lapierre collected two helpers, while Carey Price stopped 31-of-36 shots to pick up the win.

The Canadiens lead the Eastern Conference with 96 points, three points ahead of Pittsburgh, which lost to the New York Islanders on Monday.

Dany Heatley tallied twice and Martin Lapointe added a goal and an assist for the Senators, who have dropped two straight and three of their last four games overall. Daniel Alfredsson finished with three assists and Randy Robitaille had two helpers. Martin Gerber allowed three goals on 14 shot in the first period before Ray Emery took over between the pipes at the start of the second. Emery made 14 saves.

"Seven goals, we weren't too happy about it," Ottawa's Jason Spezza said.

The Senators are fifth in the Eastern Conference and trail the Canadiens by seven points for first place in the Northeast Division.

Ottawa broke the shutout bid of Price at 9:43 of the second period. Price left the crease to play a dump in, but inadvertently shot the puck into the midsection of Lapointe, who quickly threw the puck in the slot. The Montreal goaltender turned aside Robitaille's offering, but Antoine Vermette swooped in and buried the rebound to make it 3-1.

The Canadiens then capitalized on numerous defensive breakdowns by the Senators to break the game open.

Francis Bouillon slipped in from the point and tapped in Bryan Smolinski's pass to restore a three-goal cushion with 8:31 remaining. While up a man, Markov lifted a rebound over a sprawled Emery to give the Canadiens a 5-1 lead.

Sergei Kositsyn dished the puck from behind the net to Mikhail Grabovski, who, while falling, tucked the puck home from the top of the crease with 4:14 on the clock. Tom Kostopoulos capped the scoring barrage with a short-handed marker in the final minute of the middle stanza.

The Senators scored four unanswered goals in the third period to create some anxious moments, but the Canadiens managed to hold on for the win.

Heatley notched his 38th goal of the season at 3:04 to get the ball rolling. After Lapointe lit the lamp to cut the deficit to 7-3, Heatley found the back of the net again at 9:23 to narrow the margin to three.

Montreal then killed off a lengthy 5-on-3 power play to maintain its three- goal lead.

Spezza added a power-play goal with 1:58 remaining, but it was not enough for the Senators.

"There were a lot of question marks," Montreal forward Saku Koivu. "We surprised a lot of people right from the beginning. It gives confidence to the team to be the first to clinch a playoff berth. There were a lot of doubts, but we've been very consistent as a team and, tonight, we played a team that has given up problems all year. It was 7-1 after two periods that shows a lot of positives, but in the third we didn't keep our focus."

The Canadiens jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a fortuitous carom at the 1:40 mark of the first. Tomas Plekanec ripped a shot that went wide on the far side before ricocheting off the end boards and coming out the near side, where Andrei Kostitsyn buried the disc in the back of the net.

Chris Higgins made it 2-0 with 6:34 remaining in the opening stanza. Lapierre threw the puck out from behind the goal to Higgins in the slot. Gerber stopped the first shot, but Alfredsson failed to tie up the left winger, who was able to deposit the rebound underneath Gerber.

Kostitsyn's power-play marker gave the locals a 3-0 lead with 1:36 to go before the first intermission. Gerber appeared to have smothered Mark Streit's blast from the point, but the official never blew the whistle, which allowed Kostitsyn to pry the puck loose puck and slip it past an irate Gerber, who believed the play should have been blown dead.

Game Notes

Cory Stillman collected an assist on Spezza's tally for the 600th point of his NHL career...Emery made his first appearance since February 28th...Ottawa visits Buffalo on Tuesday...Montreal is off until Friday when it visits Buffalo.

03/24 23:25:51 ET

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