Senators finally playing to Jacques Martin’s style and seeing success

Joonas Korpisalo made 24 saves and four different Ottawa Senators found the back of the net as they beat the Montreal Canadiens for the second time in a week, 4-1 the final.

Set aside, for the moment, the Ottawa Senators dominance of the Montreal Canadiens – now eight straight conquests.

Even look past, if it’s possible, that lovely story of the Senators’ mothers witnessing their sons playing their best hockey of the season. Coincidence or cause/effect?

It’s the broader picture that is really intriguing and just might have legs to morph into something bigger. The Senators are finally playing the style of play that interim head coach Jacques Martin envisioned when he took over behind the bench on Dec. 19.

Over their past four games, the Sens are 3-0-1. Two of the victories were beatdowns of the Habs – 6-2 and 4-1, the latter coming at the Bell Centre Tuesday night.

“We’re starting to play with a lot more confidence, as you can see,” said Senators forward Ridly Greig. “We’re really getting into a rhythm here.”

In just his second game since returning from a 41-game suspension, centre Shane Pinto kept his point streak alive, sniping a shot past Habs’ goaltender Jake Allen for Pinto’s first goal of the season.

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As Pinto skated over to the bench he was mobbed by his teammates, getting a brotherly headlock from captain Brady Tkachuk.

“They were probably happier than me,” Pinto said, laughing about his teammates’ reaction. “And that’s what it’s all about. We’re starting to get a little vibe going, a little confidence. And hopefully we can keep it going.”

It was a brilliant bank pass off the boards by Claude Giroux that sent Pinto in alone a little more than six minutes into the second period.

“I can’t make that play, that’s for sure,” Pinto said of the Giroux pass. “He’s just so smart. The savviness he has out there, it’s unbelievable. There’s really not much else to say. It’s an elite play.”

The Pinto goal was big because it extended Ottawa’s lead to 3-0 after first period goals by Greig (shorthanded) and Jake Sanderson.

The Canadiens got one back with a third period goal by Johnathan Kovacevic but Mathieu Joseph’s empty net goal ended any notion of a Montreal comeback.

Senators goaltender Joonas Korpisalo wasn’t overly busy as the Senators played a tight game in front of him, but he did count a couple of outstanding saves among his 24 made on 25 shots.

This was not a power show as both teams went 0-for-5 on the power play. But Montreal giving up a goal while having a man advantage put a sour twist on the fact they were shooting blanks.

At even strength, the Senators had the edge in play.

“The first two periods we were solid in what we were trying to do and we were consistent – we played a mature game,” Giroux said. “Then in the third period we found a way to get the win.”

As they gathered on the ice to celebrate the win, the Senators players saluted their moms up in a Bell Centre box. What a trip for the mothers: an exciting overtime game against the Winnipeg Jets in Ottawa Saturday (2-1 loss), followed by a rousing victory in Philadelphia Sunday, a memorable dinner in Montreal that night and then a final win to close out the trip.

“It’s a special moment for them, but also for us,” Giroux said. “To be able to get two wins – it’s awesome.”

About his pass to Pinto, Giroux said he figured Pinto wouldn’t miss, giving his scoring ability. He also credited Pinto with giving the Senators a needed boost with his return to the lineup.

“On the ice, but also off the ice the type of guy he is, he’s a great kid to be around,” Giroux said. “He keeps it light in the room. It’s been great to have him back.”

Considering the 36-year-old Giroux signed with Ottawa because he saw this team as an up and comer, a mid-season turnaround has to be welcome for the veteran who grew up in the area and played his junior hockey for the Gatineau Olympiques.

As Giroux spoke, he started laughing because his interview was interrupted by the singing of the mothers in the background.

On a more serious note, Giroux said he sees a pattern emerging over the past week.

“We’re just more consistent in how we want to play,” Giroux said. “And we have everybody playing the same way. Everybody’s just doing their job. Obviously it’s a lot more fun to play when you win and you’re having fun, so we’ve got to keep rolling.”

Not to get ahead of ourselves, but the Senators have a chance to get on their biggest roll of the season. They play at home to the Boston Bruins on Thursday, and the Bruins will be coming off a tough game against the Carolina Hurricanes Wednesday night. There may also be weather issues impacting the Bruins travel plans.

On Saturday, Ottawa plays host to the New York Rangers – again facing an opponent on day two of a back-to-back. The Rangers have a game Friday against the Vegas Golden Knights.

The Senators beat the Rangers 6-2 in Ottawa on Dec. 5.

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