The confidence boost in the Montreal Canadiens couldn’t be missed in the aftermath of their crucial comeback victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Friday.
Now, the quest for the Canadiens is to build on that boost and win again when they host the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night.
The Canadiens have watched their hold on fourth place in the North Division become more tenuous over the past few weeks as they’ve struggled to collect victories, but Friday’s win, in which they erased a 3-1 deficit en route to a 5-3 triumph, gave them much-needed breathing room.
The Canadiens (22-18-9, 53 points) have a six-point lead on the Calgary Flames in the chase for fourth place — worth the final playoff spot — and also pulled four points behind the third-place Jets.
Winning for just the fifth time in the past 14 games meant a lot to a club that has seven games remaining in the regular season, especially when the victory required Montreal to erase a two-goal deficit.
“We haven’t had many of those games in recent memory, and it’s great for our morale, great for our confidence,” goalie Jake Allen said. “We stuck with the program. It wasn’t pretty halfway through, down 3-1, but I think we all just dug in our heels. It gives us some life, some juice and some jive. … It’s huge for us heading into (Saturday).”
The Canadiens have been battling a plethora of injuries, and now captain Shea Weber is out due to an upper-body injury. The organization is being tight-lipped about the problem, but it doesn’t appear Weber will face the Senators.
“I’d like to give you a precise answer on that, but it wouldn’t be fair to disclose what he’s got right now,” coach Dominique Ducharme said. “They’re running more tests (Saturday), and hopefully he’s gonna be back soon.”
The Senators (19-27-4, 42 points) are eliminated from playoff contention but have the opportunity to greatly impact Montreal’s hopes. Ottawa is riding a two-game winning streak with a pair of wins over the Vancouver Canucks, the latest 6-3 on Wednesday, and has won five of its past six games. Without an opportunity to reach the Stanley Cup playoffs, the chance to play spoiler has great meaning for a squad that’s surrendered only 10 goals in its past six games.
“One thing we wanted to do as a group is really (start) building for next year and create ourselves a really good identity, and I think we’ve done that,” defenseman Thomas Chabot said. “Other teams in the division are realizing that it’s harder than they thought to play against us, and that shows a lot for us as a group, and we obviously want to keep building on that and keep winning more games by the end of the season.”
The Senators have won five of their eight meetings with the Canadiens this season, including the past two. They’ve also won three of the four games in Montreal.
“We have all the right pieces in the room, and this last stretch here has really shown how good of a team we are when we play together and we play the right way,” forward Nick Paul said. “We’re just building and building for next year. We’re learning how to play and learning how to keep leads.”
–Field Level Media
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