The Ottawa Senators got their scoring touch back, and all it took was a mild dose of Carey Price.
Actually, to be fair, Price wasn't really all that bad against the Senators, but his Montreal Canadiens teammates didn't give him much in the way of support, and Ottawa came away with a 6-2 victory as a result. But you can be sure Habs fans will place the game for this loss solely on the shoulders of the much-maligned goaltender.
Although the final score might make it hard to believe, Ottawa was down 1-0 and the 2-1 in this game, but they took control late in the second period, when Jason Spezza scored a tricky goal from behind the goal line, followed minutes later by a powerplay goal from Nick Foligno, which itself was followed seconds later by Bobby Butler's goal on a penalty shot. After those three, the Senators didn't look back, and the Canadiens didn't look interested.
Sens hero: Jared Cowen
Continued improvement from Cowen tonight, which is terrific. And the one big knock I had on him last game was the most notable positive about his game tonight: Increased physical assertiveness. Cowen was much more aggressive in front of the net, making it less pleasant for opponents to stick around, and was good in the corners and behind the net. Better yet, Cowen was capable when moving the puck; he made the easy pass, but those are often the best. It's still unclear whether or not Cowen's going to fit in the NHL, but he didn't look out of place on Saturday night.
Sens hero: Daniel Alfredsson
Gosh, it was nice to see the captain skate again. And it turns out that any fears that Alfie had lost a step were misplaced; we'll see if he can keep it up through the whole season (and we all hope so), but Alfredsson's intensity was undeniable. Although he finished without any points and was -1, he looked better than his stats line would have you believe.
Sens hero: Jason Spezza
A very strong return to Scotiabank Place ice for the leader of the team's offence. Spezza put up three points, the first a tricky bank-shot from behind the goal line, and the other a great display of patience as he out-waited Carey Price to put the puck behind him. He also assisted on Foligno's first goal.
Sens hero: Sergei Gonchar
Wow. It is nice to watch this guy play when he's on your team. The composure he has with the puck at the point... his ability to sneak shots to the net... his passing... everything. The powerplay was 3-for-7, and although a lot of that was because of Spezza, Gonchar's presence on the point was huge, too.
Sens hero: Nick Foligno
This guy just keeps on going. He has been, without a doubt, the best Senators player in the pre-season so far, and his first goal tonight was the nicest one he's scored yet--which is saying something, because the others were pretty nice. His second was the result of good forecheck pressure, and he made Jaroslav Spacek look horrible (adding Spacek to the list of defencemen Foligno has embarassed, which also includes Dion Phaneuf). I don't know who might be the odd man out, but I don't see how Foligno doesn't play on the top two lines if he keeps this up.
Sens hero: Bobby Butler
Saturday was certainly Butler's best effort so far, skating hard, controlling the puck, and working hard to retain possession or gain it. And he was rewarded for his hard work when he was hauled down on a breakaway, given a penalty shot, and made a sick move on it to score a goal. Butler's put a lot of distance between himself and the rest of the Senators' offensive forward prospects (Mike Hoffman, Roman Wick) and is definitely the most NHL-ready of the group.
Marked improvement: Brian Elliott
He not only improved from his last game, but Elliott improved through the game, and in the end, stopped 27 of 29 shots--including an impressive penalty-shot save. Still, Elliott needs to find a way to avoid allowing a bad goal before starting to play well.
How could I forget: Matt Carkner
Amazingly, the second-year NHLer looks like a wiley seasoned veteran out there. His play in the pre-season has been outstanding, and on Saturday night, his strong play alongside Cowen gave the rookie leeway to make the mistakes he'll need to make while learning the ins and outs of the professional game.
Habs zero: Jaroslav Spacek
Guy didn't look like much of a veteran out there. Played more than 27 minutes on the night, and was victimized twice by Foligno, the second of which gave Ottawa their 6-2 lead. Still early in the season, but I'd be a little nervous as a Habs fan after watching his effort on Saturday.
A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man: Jim O'Brien
I don't know what it is about Jim O'Brien this season--maybe the ridiculous hair, maybe his bigger size, maybe the obvious conditioning improvement--but the guy finally looks like he wants to play in the NHL these days. Maybe last year in Binghamton woke him up, because he looks a lot faster, a lot stronger, and a lot more motivated than he did last year. It's obvious he spent plenty of time in the gym in the off-season, and it's paid off.
There's a new daddy in town. He's a discipline daddy: Nine Habs powerplays
This is getting ridiculous. On Saturday night, Ottawa took 13 penalties, and the Habs had nine powerplays. They only scored on one, granted, but the Sens need to learn to stay out of the penalty box. Ottawa was short-handed five times in their first pre-season game, nine times in the second, and five more in the third, for a grand total of 28 short-handed situations in four games. It's not a sustainable rate, no matter how good their penalty kill is.