Perhaps the most gratifying thing about Monday night's 3-2 come-from-behind victory over the Montréal Canadiens was the fact that the Habs faithful filling the Bell Centre were chanting their 'Olé' chant with ten minutes left to play. It turned out to be premature gloating, as Dany Heatley scored two goals in 38 seconds to power the Senators to victory.
After Chris Higgins was stopped on a penalty shot by Alex Auld in the first period, Chris Campoli opened the scoring midway through the second on a powerplay goal courtesy of a Nick Foligno cross-ice pass. Alex Kovalev would tie it up a couple minutes later and Roman Hamrlik gave Montréal the lead with only seconds left in the middle frame, putting Ottawa down going into the third. Ottawa kept coming, though, and Heatley's two goals gave the Sens the win.
With Mathieu Schneider and Andrei Markov out, it wasn't hard to see the Sens' game plan tonight: Pound the Canadiens, and particularly their defencemen, into dust, and then pound the dust. Ottawa outhit Montréal 42-22, highlighted by six hits from Foligno and five from each of Chris Neil and Mike Fisher. Also stepping up their physical play were Jesse Winchester, who had four hits including huge ones on Doug Janik and Saku Koivu in the third period, and Brian Lee, who also had four including a big one on Higgins at the defensive blue line, and later took down Maxim Lapierre in his first NHL fight.
Winchester was a force in the third period. He was bumped up onto a line with Heatley and Fisher, and responded with an assist after some solid puck support on Heatley's frst goal, and then smoking Janik to give Heatley some open ice on his second goal. He's obviously not the huge playmaker some expected (or hoped, including myself) coming into the year, but he's developed into a great physical grinder with terrific puck protection skills.
Pretty much top to bottom, the Sens played well tonight. Some blown coverage caused the goals--neither of them were really on Auld's shoulders--but there was a lot of intensity in the game. Neil actually had a pretty good game offensively, and had two great chances that he just couldn't convert; too bad he hasn't played like this all season, and didn't play like that at all last season.
That was perhaps the most excited I've been for a game this season. And the game didn't disappoint; both teams played pretty well, but the Senators played harder and definitely outmuscled the Habs. The No Habs No! campaign will be excitedly watching tomorrow's game between Montréal and the New York Rangers, which will have a significant impact on the race for seventh in the East, and even a playoff spot at all.