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Pacioretty gets hat trick as Canadiens defeat Senators

The SportsXchange

OTTAWA -- Payback was sweet for Montreal Canadiens winger Max Pacioretty Friday night at Canadian Tire Centre.

But giving him even more pleasure than his three-goal, two-assist performance in a 7-4 win over Ottawa that pushed the Senators to the very edge of elimination from the race for a spot in the postseason tournament was the way his teammates had each other's back when things turned rough.

"We definitely felt we owed them a little payback from last year in the playoffs," said Pacioretty, whose team was bumped from the first round in five games by the Senators last April. "Our games have been a bit heated against them. It's not just on the scoreboard it feels good. I think to see some guys step up and stand up for their teammates, I think that's one of the more rewarding feelings about the night.

"Myself personally, you make sure you give them a tap on the shin pads, because that's a brave thing to do."

Defensemen Andrei Markov and Mike Weaver, and centers Lars Eller and David Desharnais had the other goals for the Canadiens, who improved to 44-27-7 and tightened their grip on home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Winger Thomas Vanek chipped in with three assists for Montreal, while goalie Peter Budaj made 39 saves.

Center Zack Smith had two goals for the Senators, while winger Ales Hemsky and center Mika Zibanejad had the others.

Senators goalie Craig Anderson was left in to finish what he started, facing 23 shots along the way.

"For the most part, we were in the game the whole time, up until a couple in the third," said Anderson, who didn't expect to get relief from coach Paul MacLean. "I thought through two periods we were right there. We had momentum and we had chances to score. At the end of the day, we were in the heat of the battle."

Ottawa was actually in control of the battle at the outset, jumping out a 3-0 lead by the 5:50 mark of the opening period on a pair of Smith goals sandwiched around Hemsky's third as a Senator. But just as the Senators blew a three-goal lead in the last 3:22 of a March 15 game between the two teams at Bell Centre, this time they fumbled away a similar cushion in the final 13 minutes of the first on this night.

First, Markov bounced a shot in off Anderson from behind the Senators net, then Weaver scored on what he called a "dump in" from the point through a screen, and finally Pacioretty netted his first on a breakaway after the puck had bounced over the stick of Senators defenseman Eric Gryba's stick.

"They came out really hard and I think we expected it, but I don't think we were as sharp as we should have been at the beginning," said Budaj. "They got a couple of nice goals but the guys persevered, we battled hard.

"It was big that we were able to tie the game. After not a strong start, we're starting (the second period) 0-0, basically."

Eller put the Canadiens ahead to stay at the 4:09 mark of the second, although the Senators appeared to tie it up just eight seconds later on a goal by winger Chris Neil. Officials waved it off, however, ruling that Smith had made incidental contact with Budaj a moment earlier.

Replays showed that he was bumped by his own defenseman, Francois Bouillon, and that Smith was not guilty as charged.

"One of the refs said there was contact but I didn't touch the goalie," said Smith. "I had position going to the net. We disagreed with the call. He was adamant right from the start there was contact and there was no discussion. Usually, when that happens, there's discussion."

Rather than overcome the adversity, the Senators wilted.

Asked his feelings about his team's performance, MacLean stared stone faced for a long moment before answering.

"I have none," he said. "I'm numb.

"It's brutal. We're at home. We stopped playing. It's not right."

The Senators left after the game for Saturday's tilt in New York against the Rangers. The Canadiens host the Detroit Red Wings Saturday night.

NOTES: With a goal in each period for the hat trick, Canadiens W Max Pacioretty continued on a sizzling pace. He now has eight goals in his last seven games and 38 on the season. ... Senators C Zack Smith ended a 10-game slump with his 12th goal of the season at 2:28 of the first period, then added his 13th three minutes and 22 seconds later. Smith, who scored his first-ever NHL goal against the Habs, has seven in 21 career games versus Montreal. ... Canadiens D Douglas Murray served the first of a three-game suspension for his hit on Tampa's Mike Kostka. ... Senators C Jason Spezza returned to the lineup after missing two games with a groin injury. Spezza entered the night with 29 goals and 62 points in 53 games versus Montreal. ... Canadiens G Peter Budaj was facing the Senators for just the second time in his career. He lost and gave up five goals the last time he was in goal against Ottawa
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