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Ottawa Senators goalie Brian Elliott (L) makes a save on Montreal Canadiens' Tomas Plekanec (R) during second period of NHL hockey action in Montreal March 22, 2010. (SHAUN BEST)
Ottawa Senators goalie Brian Elliott (L) makes a save on Montreal Canadiens' Tomas Plekanec (R) during second period of NHL hockey action in Montreal March 22, 2010. (SHAUN BEST)

Elliott shuts door on Habs Add to ...

So this is what parity looks like in today's any-given-night NHL.

The Ottawa Senators, losers in eight of their last nine games (one of them in a shootout) rolled into the Bell Centre to take on the Canadiens, winners in seven of nine, and despite flirting with danger for most of the evening emerged with a crucial 2-0 victory.

And if Ottawa's 19-year-old rookie defenceman Erik Karlsson wore the goat horns in the Senators' weekend loss to Dallas, he was back to being magnificent last night, scoring on a third-period power play to salt away the game.

He also assisted on Peter Regin's opener, Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson added two helpers, and Brian Elliott logged his fourth shutout of the year despite several wobbles.

For the second consecutive game, Montreal missed its chance to wrap its hands around fifth place in the Eastern Conference - by leapfrogging Ottawa - and remains in seventh.

Montreal will travel to Buffalo tomorrow, then they host the Panthers and New Jersey Devils to close out a busy week.

The Habs went 0-for-6 on the power play and generally looked out of sorts, failing to convert several gilt-edged chances.

But there are no style points in the NHL, the Senators will gratefully accept their first win in five games, and just their second this month.

They head into another pivotal game against a conference playoff rival, Philadelphia, at home tonight.

And so Ottawa remains in a glass-half-full frame of mind, despite their recent 1-7-1 slump.

"It's the only way you can be. We know what has happened, we know we've been in this situation before, we know what we have to do, so it's pretty simple," coach Cory Clouseton said matter-of-factly before the game.

There were early indications the home side was not a team playing at the peak of synchronism - Travis Moen and Ryan O'Byrne simultaneously spun away from a loose puck they thought the other was gathering, allowing former Hab Alexei Kovalev to dance in.

The sequence that perhaps best typified the game came in the first period, when Montreal's Scott Gomez made a nice outlet pass to bust open the tenacious Ottawa fore-check, Brian Gionta tipped it into the corner for a streaking Benoît Pouliot, and then flew in behind him to chip the puck behind the net.

Gomez had anticipated the play, and was in a perfect position - and in acres of space - to grab the puck, except it ticked off referee Bill McCreary's skate, launching a three-on-one the other way.

It would be one of a half-dozen odd-man chances on the evening for Ottawa, although like the others it resulted in a missed opportunity.

They thought they appeared to have the puck in the net on two other occasions - a Kovalev wraparound in the first and an Anton Volchenkov backhander in the second - no goals were given on either occasion.

The Habs have scored at least two goals in each of their last 11 games, and the Senators had yielded at least four in their four previous games, but any attempt to discern a pattern out of those numbers was confounded last night.

Though the contest was a fairly uninspiring affair, there was some residual nastiness - Maxim Lapierre crunched Ottawa's Chris Neil near the side boards, Andy Sutton later replied in kind against Montreal's Pouliot - and one frightening incident.

When Moen and Senators' forward Matt Cullen battled for a puck in the Ottawa end, Cullen's skate came up and sliced the Swift Current, Sask., native's forehead area.

He immediately fell to the ice, but was able to skate off under his own power, leaving spatters of blood behind him, as a trainer held a compress on the wound. He didn't return, it's not known whether he will miss any games.

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