Neil lifts Sens

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:33 AM ET

MONTREAL -- There will be too many nights this season when the Senators are unable to keep pace with their opponents. They just don't have the firepower -- especially if one, two or all of Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson and Erik Karlsson are out of the lineup, like the three of them were Saturday at Bell Centre.

So what then?

Well, then they'll have to play the type of defensive hockey that would have made Jacques Martin proud when he was Ottawa's coach in the late 1990s.

Today's Senators did that for a period against Martin's Canadiens in Montreal during pre-season game No. 4.

While not the Habs' opening night lineup, it was certainly not the worst they could ice. Martin had his three best forwards going -- Mike Cammalleri, Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta -- and although the Senaotrs took the only two penalties of the first period, they still held the Habs to a total of four shots in the opening 20 minutes.

Kitty barred the door, to be sure.

Martin must have had a few things to say during the intermission, however, as the Habs came out much stronger. Goals by Cammalleri less than three minutes apart gave them a 2-0 lead by the 7:02 mark. On this night, against this Ottawa team, that seemed like it would be plenty.

But the Senators showed some of the intestinal fortitude they'll have to come up with a lot this season in bouncing back to make a game of it.

And it in the end, it was on of their true character players who pulled it out.

Chris Neil's second goal of the third period with 27 seconds left was the winner in a 3-2 victory for the Senators.

Their comeback from the 2-0 deficit started with a takeaway in the neutral zone by rookie defenceman Jared Cowen, who continues to have a solid camp. Cowen crossed the blue line and fed the puck to rookie Stephane Da Costa, who made a beauty of a pass to trailer Milan Michalek. It was the second time in two nights Da Costa and Michalek teamed up to score on the Habs.

The Senators tied the game at 8:57 of the third period when Neil, playing his familiar robust style, tried to hit Michalek with a pass in front. The puck deflected off the skates of two Habs before settling in the cage behind Carey Price.

To show how important a victory was to the Senators, they had a power play with 2:28 left in the third and had defensive defenceman Mark Borowiecki on the point, with Da Costa, Mika Zibanejed and Nikita Filatov on the front line.

Robin Lehner played well while stopping 22 shots and going the distance in goal for Ottawa.


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