The last-place Ottawa Senators have proven to be a thorn in the Canadiens’ side most of this season.
Thursday wasn’t one of those nights, however.
Montreal won its third consecutive game, defeating the Senators 4-1 at the Canadian Tire Centre. It was the second straight time the Canadiens have produced a thorough and dominating performance, after shutting out Edmonton on Tuesday.
Phillip Danault and Paul Byron, two players who have struggled to find the back of the net this season, scored the Canadiens’ opening two goals before Corey Perry and Brendan Gallagher put the game on ice in the third period.
Jake Allen, who had lost his last six games — although four went to overtime — had his bid for a shutout denied by Connor Brown, who scored a power-play goal at 18:13 in the third period after Artturi Lehkonen took a needless tripping penalty in the offensive zone.
It was Allen’s first victory since Feb. 6, also at Ottawa.
While Allen wasn’t severely tested on this night, the Canadiens’ backup netminder undoubtedly kept the visitors in the game in the early going.
In the third minute, he came up big, making a nice stop on Drake Batherson. And then, in the seventh minute, he made a good save on the always dangerous Brady Tkachuk.
Nonetheless, it was the Canadiens who opened the scoring midway through the period, and again it was the Tomas Tatar, Danault and Gallagher line — the team’s most dangerous of late, that struck.
The play began with a give-and-go between Gallagher and Tatar, who dropped the puck back to Gallagher. The diminutive winger directed a shot at the Ottawa net that deflected off a defenceman — and directly to Danault, who scored his third of the season at 10:48.
Montreal now has a record of 15-3-4 when it scores the first goal.
Canadiens defenceman Jeff Petry took a tripping penalty in the final minute of the period, but it turned out being a boon for the visitors.
In the opening minute of the second period, Byron increased Montreal’s lead to 2-0 with a short-handed marker, his third this season.
Jake Evans did the heavy lifting on the play, carrying the puck to the side and taking some Senators players with him. His perfect cross-ice pass found Byron, who scored on a high backhand shot. .
It was the Canadiens’ eighth short-handed goal this season, the majority of which were produced early in the year.
Montreal nearly took a three-goal lead late in the period. A turnover by defenceman Mike Reilly, a former Canadien, resulted in a breakaway for Nick Suzuki. Goalie Filip Gustavsson made a pad save on the original shot, then denied Suzuki on the rebound.
It was a dominant period for the Canadiens, who limited Ottawa to only six shots.
Josh Anderson came close in the fourth minute of the third period, striking the post. But it mattered little, since Perry then made it 3-0 with his seventh goal at 4:43.
Evans again was the catalyst on the play, making a nice spin move and then directing a shot at Gustavsson, who made a pad save. But Perry converted the rebound for his seventh goal this season.
If the Senators had any aspirations of a late-game comeback, they were quashed when Gallagher made it 4-0 at 10:04, converting Danault’s short pass from in front of the net for his 14th goal this season.
The same two teams meet again Saturday night, this time at the Bell Centre.