OTTAWA -- More pressure will be on the Ottawa Senators when they host the Montreal Canadiens for the second time in two days Thursday at Canadian Tire Centre.
Not only will be trying to keep up with the pack, but also to show that the corner they had appeared to turn isn't going to lead them back to their sorry ways.
The Senators (12-13-3) could have pulled into a tie for the second wildcard spot with a win in Montreal, but are now in danger of falling six points behind their arch rivals. Fortunately for them, the back-to-back set shifts to a venue where they've had much success. Their 9-4-2 home record is one of the best in the NHL.
The 5-2 loss at Bell Centre snapped the Senators winning streak at three games and also saw the return of the shoddy defensive play they were starting to get away from. During the three victories, they had only surrendered five goals. That was big for a team that have allowed more goals and shots against than any other in the league.
On Tuesday they broke down in the second period, allowing the Canadiens three unanswered goals in a 3:39 span.
"We weren't quite ready to play right from the start," center Zack Smith told the Ottawa Sun. "They were better and kept their foot on the grass. It's only one game. We're only a few days from paying our best hockey of the year.
"We still have confidence ... (Thursday) is a good opportunity and we have a lot to prove. The easy way to explain (Tuesday's) game is that our effort level was not there, but we don't have too many days to think about it."
Major obstacles will be in the Senators way as they attempt to get back on track. The Canadiens (13-10-5) will again turn to goalie Carey Price, who had some timely saves among the 28 he made against Ottawa earlier this week. Price has impressive career numbers against the Senators. Along with a 23-9-5 mark that includes three shutouts, he boasts a .922 save percentage and 2.32 goals against average versus Ottawa.
Price will be making his sixth consecutive start on Thursday.
"I think there's no reason we can't ride him," coach Claude Julien told reporters, per Montreal Gazette.
The Canadiens also hope to ride the offensive combination of Max Domi and Jonathan Drouin, who both had three points in the win over Ottawa.
"Both of them are smart players, both of them are good playmakers and they see the ice real well," Julien told the Gazette. "They also enjoy playing with each other. That's more important than people think."
Rounding out Montreal's new top line is a mucker, veteran winger Andrew Shaw, who is raving about the speed of his new linemates.
"When they have the puck and they're going, they're great at making quick, little plays or beating guys one-on-one," Shaw told the Gazette. "Their compete level is pretty cool, too."
Craig Anderson, who made 35 saves in Montreal, will start in goal for the Senators. Against the Habs he has career numbers of 12-12-3 along with a .895 save percentage and a 3.20 GAA.