The Senators derailed the Canadiens playoff express for a night, sticking a rail in the bubble of rookie goaltender Jaroslav Halak in the process.
The Senators beat the 21-year-old three times in their first nine shots last night, weathered a brief comeback and then headed off to Long Island with a 5-2 win in the critical matchup for the Habs and their vocal fans among the 20,185 at Scotiabank Place.
Senators winger Dany Heatley, playing despite a sore ankle, scored an empty-netter for his 47th goal of the season.
He needs three goals in the Senators' last four games to hit the 50-goal mark for the second year in a row.
"It seems like every night we're playing a desperate team," said Senators forward Mike Comrie, who had the winning goal and added two assists as the Senators hit the 100-point plateau for the fourth year in a row.
"The main thing for us is to match the opponents' enthusiasm and realize what's at stake. It's just as important for us as it is for them."
Senators centre Mike Fisher had a pair of goals and Jason Spezza added his 31st of the season as the Habs were boosted once again by their vocal fans in Scotiabank Place, but saw their five-game winning streak snapped.
The Senators will face another desperate team in Long Island tonight while the Habs, still hanging onto eighth place in the Eastern Conference, returned home for a meeting with the Sabres.
The Senators led 3-1 after two periods and rode some great penalty-killing to the win. The Habs have the best power play in the league, but were limited to just a power-play goal by defenceman Sheldon Souray, his 25th overall and 18th on the power play, to lead NHL defencemen.
The Senators killed off a full, two-minute 5-on-3 that bridged the first and second periods.
CLAWED WAY BACK
The Habs clawed their way back into the game with a goal from their fourth line off the rush early in the third as Mark Streit, the defenceman-turned-forward, jumped behind Senators defenceman Wade Redden and tipped a pass from Maxim Lapierre up over the shoulder of Senators goaltender Ray Emery to make it 3-2 at 2:43.
That set up a strong finish as the Canadiens pressed, but couldn't get the equalizer.
That line came close to tying it a couple of minutes later as Streit poked at a puck by Emery's pad in the crease. A replay didn't show the puck over the line.
Just as the considerable number of Canadiens fans in the Scotiabank Place crowd began to chant "Go Habs Go," in the first period, Fisher opened the scoring after the Canadiens mishandled the puck behind their net at 4:57.
Spezza scored at 6:29 off a nice rush following a give-and-go with Heatley.
The Senators' penalty killing has been pretty good lately (only two power-play goals surrendered in the last four games, killing 16 of 18 chances), but there's not much you can do when Souray is firing the puck.
With Antoine Vermette in the box he scored on a wicked one-timer Emery could only hear.
Heatley, meanwhile, is trying to become the first player since 2001 to have back-to-back 50-goal seasons.
He had a good chance in the second period after a nice three-way passing play with Spezza and captain Daniel Alfredsson, but referee Dan Marouelli said he had blown the whistle before Heatley jammed the puck in after Halak had made a nice save with his right pad at 3:48 of the second.
Replays showed Halak never did have the puck covered up.