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Allen Panzeri, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Sunday, January 14, 2007
Players pad statistics in easy win as club makes move up conference; Senators 8, Canadiens 3

Not even a month ago, the Ottawa Senators were gasping for air.

They were taking a beating every way they turned, on the ice and off.

Yesterday, with their 8-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens, they competed a run that has seen them win nine of their past 11 games and collect 19 of a possible 22 points.

With 54 points, the Senators (26-19-2) are now solidly in the Eastern Conference's fifth playoff spot, just one point behind the Canadiens (25-15-5). So the race is on.

No longer is it a question if the Senators will make the playoffs; unless they utterly collapse, that appears unlikely. It is now a matter of where they'll finish.

Not surprisingly, that has brightened their spirits considerably. They're not afraid to pull the morning paper out of the mailbox in the morning.

"It's definitely a lot better atmosphere," said defenceman Wade Redden, who had one of the eight goals.

"It's a process, though, and we have to keep going. We can't be happy with what we've done.

"We put ourselves in a position early in the year where we had to battle back. We did that, now we have to keep improving.

"We're getting the bounces and we're working hard, but we have to keep working hard if we want to keep getting the bounces."

It was a day for padding statistics.

Daniel Alfredsson had a goal and four assists. Chris Kelly had a goal and three assists. Dany Heatley had a goal and two assists, while Mike Comrie and Patrick Eaves each had a goal and an assist.

Antoine Vermette and Andrej Meszaros had Ottawa's other goals.

The goals by Comrie, Alfredsson, and Heatley came on the power play, matching a season high (against Buffalo on Jan. 3) and ending a 0-for-15 slump over the previous four games.

The only sour note -- and it was a sour one to the Canadiens -- was the airing of an unfortunate Hockey Night in Barbados promotional video that had Spartacat inciting a Montreal fan to jump off a boat into the ocean.

The video has been shown at every Ottawa home game, with the fan in the sweater of the opposing team.

With Montreal's general manager, Bob Gainey, still grieving the death of his 25-year-old daughter Laura, it was in excruciatingly poor taste.

Laura Gainey was swept off the deck of the tall ship Picton Castle into the Atlantic Ocean in early December. Her body hasn't been recovered.

The Senators knew they had blundered the moment the video had been shown.

Team president Roy Mlakar and owner Eugene Melnyk (who wasn't at the game) were on the phone within minutes to apologize to Montreal ownership. They'll follow with a formal letter of apology from Melnyk. After the game, Mlakar said there was no excuse for such tastelessness.

Gainey wasn't at the game.

On the ice, Chris Higgins, Craig Rivet, and Sheldon Souray scored for the Canadiens. With his 12th power-play goal this year, Souray set a Montreal record for the most power-play goals by a defenceman.

Cristobal Huet, named to the Eastern Conference all-star team as the first period was being played, was yanked at 3:31 of the second period after Kelly made it 6-0. He had allowed six goals on 25 shots.

David Aebischer came in and wasn't much better. He allowed two goals on three shots in the final 16:29 of the second (the Senators had only a total of eight in the second). However, Aebischer did stop all five shots the Senators had in the third.

While Montreal's performance had to be considered an anomaly, it was nonetheless deeply embarrassing.

"I think we came out pretty good," said Huet.

"We had two or three good scoring chances in the first three, four minutes, then we turned the puck over and I wasn't able to make the saves that we needed.

"All the bounces went their way. It was a terrible (game) for us, embarrassing.

"I look at myself and expect far more.

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