PREVIEW: Struggling Ottawa Senators seek elusive win vs. hot Montreal Canadiens

By Field Level Media
Jan 31, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner (50) makes a save against Ottawa Senators forward Brady Tkachuk (7) during the second period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The Ottawa Senators will try to end their winless drought against the toughest competition possible when they visit the red-hot Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.

Ottawa is 0-8-1 over its past nine games. Thursday marks the end of a seven-game road trip that has been nothing but misery for Senators, who were outscored 34-14 over the six regulation defeats on the road.

Tuesday’s 4-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers followed a familiar script for the Senators. The Oilers scored the game’s first four goals, including three scores during a five-minute span in the first period.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Senators, check out #Sens rumors, rankings, and news here.

“We’re putting ourselves behind the eight-ball pretty early, and they are tough mountains to climb,” Senators defenseman Erik Gudbranson said. “Three-goal leads are next to impossible to come back from in this league. …We need to push for that first goal, really. It sits in the back of your mind, the way we’ve started lately.”

A quick start will be especially difficult for the Senators against a Canadiens offense that is firing on all cylinders. While Ottawa at the bottom of the goals-allowed standings with 4.80 per game, Montreal leads the league with an average of 4.40 goals scored per game.

The Canadiens have scored at least five goals in six of their 10 games this season, including their 5-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday. Tyler Toffoli led Montreal with two goals and an assist, including a spectacular backhanded score in the second period.

After signing a four-year, $17 million deal to join the Canadiens in October, Toffoli is off to a dream start with nine goals and four assists. Only four players in Montreal’s storied franchise history have scored more than nine goals in their first 10 games in the uniform.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Canadiens, check out #GoHabsGo rumors, rankings, and news here.

“It’s just fun out there right now. We’re just doing so well as a team, and all the guys are getting along great,” Toffoli said. “So hopefully we can just kind of stick with it and stay together and keep getting better every single day, and that’s what we’re trying to do. I think we’re on the right path right now.”

As good as Toffoli has been, his 13 points only tie him for the team lead. Defenseman Jeff Petry (five goals, eight assists) has provided some major offense from the blue line.

After backup goaltender Jake Allen started Tuesday’s win, Carey Price likely will be back in net for Montreal on Thursday. Price is 27-9-6 against Ottawa in his career, tied for his most career wins against any single opponent.

Matt Murray is the Senators’ probable starter in net, looking to get his season on track after posting a 4.82 goals-against average in his first seven games. Murray hasn’t played since allowing three goals on his first nine shots in Sunday’s 8-5 loss to the Oilers.

The Canadiens have a 12-1-2 record in their past 15 games against the Senators, dating back to the 2016-17 season.

This is the first of 10 meetings between the Senators and Canadiens this season. The two teams will have a rematch on Saturday in Ottawa.

–Field Level Media