Kovalev outshoots Senators

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:25 AM ET

MONTREAL -- Alexei Kovalev might have the biggest hands in the NHL.

The Senators saw the Montreal Canadiens winger wrap them around last night's game and squeeze two points out of it in the Habs' come-from-behind 4-3 shootout win.

Kovalev, back after missing 13 games following knee surgery, had a goal (the 300th of his career) and two assists (including the 700th point of his career) and capped the night by scoring the clincher in the shootout, beating Ottawa goaltender Dominik Hasek to the stick side. Three points, three standing ovations from the sellout crowd of 21,273.

"It's a great feeling. That's not an easy team to beat but we'll take it," said Kovalev. "To get out of a slump beating the best team in the league at home, you can't have a better situation."

The Senators blew a 3-0 lead and lost centre Jason Spezza with a pulled chest muscle after he opened the scoring 89 seconds into the game.

INJURIES TAKE TOLL

At that point, it looked like it might be a long night for the Habs, missing captain Saku Koivu (groin), power forward Richard Zednik (flu) and goaltender Jose Theodore (knee). After a great start, they were 4-6-3 without Kovalev and had won just four of their last 15 games.

But Kovalev came up big and Cristobal Huet (34 saves) did a nice job in the Montreal net, stopping both Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson in the shootout. Pierre Dagenais beat Hasek with the Habs' first shot in the shootout.

"All we heard all day was how beat up they were. We didn't have Chris Phillips (flu) and we lost Spezza, so injuries played a role on both parts," said Sens coach Bryan Murray. "But their good player was really good.

"It's tough to lose a game like that, but we let them back in it with turnovers. They got it going, got some emotion and got excited."

Murray's point is well taken. The Senators had 23 giveaways to the Habs' 11 on the night.

Spezza scored the Senators' first goal and then left the game after feeling a twinge in his chest. He tried it briefly in the second period, then called it a night.

"The doctor is confident it's just a strained pectoral muscle," said Spezza. "It's too early in the year to try and battle through stuff like that."

Spezza accompanied the team to Philadelphia last night after the game and said he would see how he felt today.

Kovalev, meanwhile, was the best player on the ice and pretty much single-handedly brought the Habs back from a 3-0 deficit.

He sparked a long standing ovation when his assist on Niklas Sundstrom's goal 13:50 of the second earned him his 700th NHL point.

After helping set up Michael Ryder to make it 3-2 on the power play at 16:02 of the second, Kovalev scored the 300th goal of his career (cue the ovation again) to tie it at 4:13 of the third period. With Ottawa defenceman Andrej Meszaros off with a double minor for highsticking Kovalev, the Montreal winger ripped a wrist shot over Hasek's glove hand.

"That was a great shot," said Hasek, who was making his first start against the Habs after Ray Emery had rung up a 3-0 record against them this year. "(Kovalev)'s got everything. They battled the whole 60 minutes and in the second 30 minutes they were the better team. That's why they won the game."

'OBVIOUSLY SKILLED'

"We don't lose too many games when we're up 3-0," said Ottawa winger Mike Fisher, who rang a shot off the post in overtime. "Kovalev is obviously skilled 1-on-1. He creates a lot out there and he's tough to defend at times. You don't want to take a penalty."

Spezza got his goal, his 13th of the season, on a gift from Montreal defenceman Sheldon Souray, the same guy who was victimized on that spectacular Spezza goal in overtime Oct. 27.

Souray, under pressure behind his own net, reversed the puck off the boards and right onto Spezza's stick after Spezza duped Souray by yelling for the puck. Huet was already at the far post, anticipating Souray coming out that side with the puck and Spezza just walked out and tucked the puck into the open side.

Meszaros and Chara, both on the power play and both on nice passes from Alfredsson, scored in the second period to stake Ottawa to that 3-0 lead.

The Senators play the Flyers in Philadelphia tomorrow night.


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