Hamburglar tastes victory again versus shorthanded Senators


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Canadians 2, Senators 1

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For those who might have forgotten what a Saturday night with a spirited crowd in the seats and multiple storylines on the ice can feel and look like, the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators delivered.

Ultimately, the Canadiens took advantage of the Senators last-minute shorthanded situation — defensemen Thomas Chabot and Nikita Zaitsev were late scratches due to non COVID-19 related illnesses — for a 2-1 victory, handing goaltender Andrew Hammond a victory in his celebrated return to Canadian Tire Centre.

Artturi Lehkonen scored both Canadiens goals, while Colin White — playing his first game of the season following shoulder surgery — replied for the Senators.

“It doesn’t happen very often, but it happened tonight,” Senators coach DJ Smith said of being forced to go with five defensemen and 13 forwards. “We’ve had a lot of crazy things happen this year, but you’ve still got to find a way to play.”

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Beyond that, there was plenty more to chew on, including the noise and enthusiasm of the Canadiens faithful in the building, pumped to see the Canadiens run their season-high winning streak to five games. It was the final game of COVID-19 mandated 50 per cent capacity rules at the Canadian Tire Center, but with all the colors and noise in the building, it felt like they were more than 9,958 fans in the building. When the Senators return to Canadian Tire March 10 against the expansion Seattle Kraken, there will be no limitations.

Of course, there doesn’t figure to be the same buzz surrounding the Kraken.

Much of the hype Saturday involved Hammond, whose remarkable 20-1-2 run in the Senators net in 2015 took them from nowhere to a playoff spot. Plagued by injuries, Hammond was traded to Colorado in 2017 and hadn’t previously played at Canadian Tire Center since suffering a 6-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues in Feb. 2016.

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Montreal Canadiens center Nick Suzuki (14) chases Ottawa Senators defenseman Josh Brown (3) in the first period at the Canadian Tire Centre, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022.
Montreal Canadiens center Nick Suzuki (14) chases Ottawa Senators defenseman Josh Brown (3) in the first period at the Canadian Tire Centre, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. Photo by Marc DesRosiers /USA TODAY Sports

After bouncing around the AHL, he was traded to Montreal earlier this month and has helped spark a resurgence for the down-and-out Canadiens. After making 26 saves Saturday, he’s now 2-0 in his return to the big leagues. He has stopped 56 of 59 shots since joining the Canadiens.

The Senators offered up a video tribute to the Hamburglar during the first TV timeout, showing some of his most spectacular stops during his incredible run in the Senators net. Give credit to the handful of fans who were prepared for the occasion, tossing hamburgers onto the ice in front of the Canadiens bench.

The contest was sloppy at times, but it was entertaining throughout.

Lehkonen’s second goal of the game, late in the second period, gave the Canadiens their 2-1 lead heading into the third.

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White had tied the game on the power play earlier in the period, converting a pretty pass from Connor Brown, resulting in jubilation for both himself and the entire bench. It was first goal in 293 days.

“I was a bit nervous or excited going into it,” said White. “No nap going into it. It felt pretty good to get out there and just play hockey again. You watch a lot of hockey and it looks a little easier up top (in the press box), where the game slows down a bit. Brown made a great play on that one pass. I think we had a good team effort tonight and just fell short.”

Montreal Canadiens center Laurent Dauphin (45) battles with Ottawa Senators left wing Austin Watson (16) in the first period at the Canadian Tire Center Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022.
Montreal Canadiens center Laurent Dauphin (45) battles with Ottawa Senators left wing Austin Watson (16) in the first period at the Canadian Tire Center Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. Photo by Marc DesRosiers /USA TODAY Sports

Senators goaltender Matt Murray, thrust into a difficult spot due to the defensive situation, was also sharp, putting a Band-Aid over some of the disorganization in front of him. I have made 30 saves.

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Seconds after Murray made a solid right pad save off Lehkonen in the first period, Lehkonen again found himself wide open in front of the net to open the scoring. It was one example of the disarray on the Senators defence, forced to mix and match with ever-changing defense pairings throughout.

Zub finished the first period with a whopping 10:42 of ice time and finished the game at 24:59. Erik Brannstrom hit 25:19, Nick Holden checked in at 24:08, Josh Brown logged 20:36 and Victor Mete played 19:40.

“It’s tough for sure,” said Mete, who was originally going to be a healthy scratch. “You have guys who haven’t played the right side (defence) at all and you’re kind of switching it up. It’s a good thing we have a couple of guys who have played the right side and it was kind of easier to adjust, but definitely not as easy as it looks.”

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Murray’s return was somewhat buried amid the Hamburglar and White storylines. He hadn’t played since Feb. 15, when he left a game against the St. Louis Blues after being clipped in the head. Murray was originally scheduled to start Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild, but those plan changed after the surprise early arrival of his second child from him.

White had some early jump. He began the game centering a fourth line alongside Parker Kelly and Austin Watson, but also saw time on a top line with Brady Tkachuk and Tim Stuetzle and an assortment of other combinations.

Ottawa Senators center Colin White (36) scores on Montreal Canadiens goalie Andrew Hammond (37) in the second period at the Canadian Tire Centre.
Ottawa Senators center Colin White (36) scores on Montreal Canadiens goalie Andrew Hammond (37) in the second period at the Canadian Tire Centre. Photo by Marc DesRosiers /USA TODAY Sports

“Right now, it’s just take it shift by shift and whoever I’m out with, just try to make plays and get it into the offensive zone.”

On Saturday morning, Smith was wary of the resurgent Canadiens, who have found some new life in the past couple of weeks with new coach Martin St. Louis behind the bench.

“Montreal is coming in hot, but that’s good,” he said. “No matter who we play, it’s best that we get everyone’s best. We know where we’re at. We’re getting a little bit healthier. We hope over the next month, we get Drake (Batherson) and (Josh) Norris back and and then push ourselves for a couple of months and see what happens.”

Come Saturday night, though, the Senators also found themselves down to only a handful of defensemen, including missing Chabot.

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Twitter.com/Citizenkwarren

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