Surging Canadiens visit Senators

A couple weeks ago, the Montreal Canadiens were at risk of falling out of a playoff position in the North Division standings.

Instead, as they head into Wednesday’s road clash with the Ottawa Senators, the Canadiens are tied with the Winnipeg Jets for the third spot. It’s amazing what three straight comeback victories in four nights can do for a club.

The Canadiens (24-18-9, 57 points) are coming off a 3-2 overtime win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday, which came a couple of days after they erased a two-goal, third-period deficit against the Senators en route to a 3-2 overtime win. On Friday, they scored four unanswered goals over the second and third periods en route to a 5-3 win over the Jets.

If that’s not enough, rookie Cole Caufield — who has played only five NHL games — scored the winner in each of the past two games.

“The feeling doesn’t get old, and it never will,” said Caufield, the third player in league history to score his first two big-league goals in overtime, following Albert Hughes of the New York Americans (1930-31) and Brent Seabrook of the Chicago Blackhawks (2005-06).

The Canadiens and Jets have identical point totals with five games remaining, but the Jets are on a seven-game skid and the Canadiens are finding their form just in time.

“I think we’ve been really resilient,” said forward Nick Suzuki, who has 10 points in a six-game point streak (4-6-10). “Obviously we’ve been down in all the games. It’s not something we’re looking for, but it just shows a lot of character in the group that we have on the ice. And we’re doing a great job of coming back and putting pressure on (the Jets). … It’s going to be fun down the stretch.”

The Senators (20-27-5, 45 points) have been eliminated from playoff contention, but are having fun down the stretch, too. The team that’s won five of nine meetings with the Canadiens this season is coming off a 2-1 victory over the Jets on Monday and is on a 6-1-1 run.

The Senators are also winning thrillers. Nikita Zaitsev scored with 73 seconds left in regulation to beat the Jets on Monday.

“It’s great to see him get rewarded,” coach D.J. Smith said. “I don’t think enough people talk about how hard he is to play against and how little room you have and how hard it is to get to the net. He doesn’t provide a ton of offense because he spends the entire game trying to shut you down, and I would say most teams don’t like playing against him.”

Zaitsev has three goals this season, and the first two were into empty nets.

“I forget that feeling to score on a goalie,” Zaitsev quipped.

Helping Ottawa’s cause of late has been the goaltending. Filip Gustavsson has seen action in six games in his rookie season, in which he’s posted a 3-1-2 record with a 1.87 goals-against average and .944 save percentage. He stopped 28 shots against the Jets.

“That’s the best goaltending display that we’ve seen,” Smith said. “We made some mistakes in front of him, and it’s probably a couple games now … he’s been making incredible stops. It’s good to see.”

On the down side for the Senators, defenseman Thomas Chabot won’t play the rest of the season after suffering an upper-body injury in the first period of Monday’s game. Defenseman Josh Brown (undisclosed injury) is probably also out for the remainder of the season, Smith said Tuesday.

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