OTTAWA, Ontario -- There was no denying the sense of relief from the Montreal Canadiens.
Players jumped to their feet as Ilya Kovalchuk scored the overtime winner to give Montreal a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night.
Most importantly, the win put an end to the Canadiens eight-game losing streak and avoiding the longest skid of the season.
“That was a big goal for us,” Carey Price acknowledged after making 41 saves. “Obviously things haven’t been rosy around here, but it was a nice breath that was breathed into this team."
Kovalchuk signed a one-year, two-way contract on Jan. 3 with the Canadiens and was happy to play a part in the win.
“It’s good to get a first goal as a (Canadien), especially in OT,” Kovalchuk said after having three assists over three games with his new team. “I think the win is way more important to snap that eight-game losing streak and we need to build from there.”
Scoring winners will make anyone popular, but Canadiens coach Claude Julien said Kovalchuk has fit right in since joining the team.
“He’s come in and been the ultimate pro,” Julien said. “He made a couple of nice passes where we had some great scoring chances and he scores the winning goal. He’s respectful of his shift lengths, he’s respectful of how we want to play. So, I think the guys look at a guy who’s been around for a long time buying in and he’s an easy guy to like.”
Coming into the game neither team had won since Dec. 23.
Montreal is now 1-7-1 in its last nine while the Senators are 0-4-3 through their last seven games.
Nick Suzuki scored in regulation for the Canadiens.
Price was instrumental for the Montreal on Saturday night and is hopeful the victory starts a winning streak.
“Winning solves all problems it seems,” Price said with a laugh.
Like his players, Julien was more than a little relieved to see the losing streak come to an end.
“The first win after that many losses is never an easy one,” Julien said. “We’ll take it and hopefully we’ll build from that.”
The Senators were coming off a 3-2 shootout loss to the Red Wings in Detroit the night before. Marcus Hogberg, who got his second start in as many nights, kept Ottawa in the game making 23 saves.
While the setbacks continue to pile up for the Senators, players insist all has not been lost.
“We’re going in the right direction, that’s one thing I know,” Ottawa center Jean-Gabriel Pageau said. “Everyone is on the same page and is playing the same way and that’s a good thing. When you lose by one goal it means you’re in every game.”
Trailing 1-0, the Senators were finally able to beat Price at 13:32 of the third period on a broken play. Anthony Duclair came into the slot and was unable to get a shot off before the puck was inadvertently redirected into the net by Montreal’s Matthew Peca. Drake Batherson, who was the last Senator to touch the puck, was credited with the goal.
Both goalies were at their finest in the second making a number of big stops.
Hogberg made a great save on Artturi Lehkonen midway through the period, while Price made a big save on Chris Tierney as he broke in alone with Ottawa shorthanded. The Senators were swarming in the final minute of the period, but could not find a way to beat Price.
Notes: Ottawa’s Mark Borowiecki missed his second straight game due to the flu. ... The Canadiens were without Brendan Gallagher as he was dealing with headaches following Thursday’s 4-2 loss to Edmonton. ... Prior to Thursday's loss, Gallagher had missed four straight games due to a concussion. ... Peca made his return to the lineup after missing the last 14 games.
Canadiens: Host Calgary on Monday night.
Senators: Host Chicago on Tuesday night.
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports