Senators win to take Northeast lead

The Ottawa Senators heard all about how they were supposed to finish last in the Eastern Conference and not even come close to the playoffs.

Well, they’re proving all those doubters wrong – and doing while sitting in first place in the Northeast Division.

Filip Kuba scored 3:07 into overtime Friday night as the Senators moved ahead of the Boston Bruins in the division with a 2-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens.

”It means a lot of hard work by all those guys across the hallway,” Senators coach Paul MacLean said of his players. ”They’ve worked real hard and they’ve believed in themselves for a long time now and I think the consistency of their effort on a daily basis is being rewarded with the success the team is having. But, we’ve got 10 games left to play and we have lots of work to do.”

After taking a pass from Daniel Alfredsson, Kuba beat Carey Price with a slap shot from the top of the left faceoff circle. Erik Karlsson assisted on Kuba’s winner, giving him four points in his last three games and 71 points in 71 games on the season.

Kuba scored on Ottawa’s 33rd shot to give the Senators 84 points – one more than the idle Bruins, although Boston has two games in hand.

Colin Greening also scored for the Senators, while Tomas Plekanec had a goal for the Canadiens.

”I felt like it was a gritty game and it takes 59 or, in our case, 63 minutes, just to break them,” Greening said. ”I felt like we played really well and I think we deserved to have a couple more goals. Overall, we just stuck to it and we knew that going into overtime were playing the better of the two teams.”

The Senators snapped a two-game skid and earned a little redemption from their 3-2 shootout loss in Montreal on Wednesday night. They have also earned points in five straight games.

Ben Bishop faced just 14 shots for Ottawa.

Despite the loss, the Canadiens also have points in five straight games, including three wins, as they continue to climb from the basement of the Eastern Conference.

Greening scored at 6:27 of the third period to tie it after Zack Smith outskated the Montreal defense and got the puck on goal before Greening backhanded a rebound past a fallen Price.

Despite 10 combined power plays through the first two periods, there was only one goal scored – and it was short-handed.

Plekanec made his way into Montreal’s zone with Petteri Nokelainen in the penalty box and fired a quick shot that seem to catch Bishop a bit off guard. Plekanec looked as though he was going to try and split the Ottawa defense, but after taking a quick step to his left, he recorded his second short-handed goal of the season, and ninth for the Canadiens, at 8:18 of the first period.

Montreal finished 0 for 6 on the power play, while the Senators went 0-for-8, including a lengthy five-on-three to start the second period.

”Obviously, that’s what you’re disappointed in – the amount of work the penalty killers have to do,” Montreal coach Randy Cunneyworth said. ”Some of the calls were deserved, but some you shake your head at. They were quite correct on a lot of the calls. The one that puzzled me may have been Cole when he was hauled down by Karlsson, but beyond that, we have to play a lot smarter in certain situations.

”We iced a lot of pucks, but we also made a lot of moves that put us on our heels.”

The Senators held the Canadiens to just three shots in each of the final two periods and none in overtime.

Notes: The 21-year-old Karlsson is the youngest defenseman to reach 70 points since the Rangers’ Brian Leetch in the 1988-89 season. … Friday’s game was the second of three over a nine-day span between Ottawa and Montreal. The Canadiens were 3-2 winners in a shootout at home March 14 and the two will meet for the sixth and final time this season in Montreal on March 23. … Plekanec’s goal was his 139th with the Canadiens, two behind Ryan Walter for 40th in team history.