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Apr 12, 2024 4:57 pm

Senators, Canadiens meet, try to find silver lining

drake batherson

It hasn’t been anything close to the season the Ottawa Senators envisioned. Playoff hopes long ago dashed, they’ll look to give their fans reason to cheer when they host the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday in their home finale.

The Senators (35-40-4, 74 points) are just one point ahead of the Canadiens (30-36-13, 73 points) for last place in the Atlantic Division.

It’s a far cry from where the team had hoped to be, with eyes on ending a six-year playoff drought when the season began. Instead, the drought hits seven, and for the fifth time in that span they’ll finish no better than seventh in the division.

Ottawa returns home with two wins in a three-game road trip, including a 3-2 shootout victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday, after losing three in a row.

“We want to leave our best effort for our fans and leave a good taste in their mouth moving forward into next year,” Senators captain Brady Tkachuk said.

“Create some excitement, create some energy for hopefully a big season next year. But, most importantly, for a year that’s been a lot of ups and downs, just to leave on a high note with the people that have supported us through thick and thin.”

Forward Drake Batherson scored against the Lightning to end a four-game goal drought. He’s second on the team behind Tkachuk with a career-high 28 goals, and his goal Thursday gave him a career-best 63 points, surpassing last season’s previous high.

The Canadiens have finished in last place in the division in each of the past two seasons. This year will make it three straight out of the playoffs and will be the fifth time in the past seven seasons.

“The expectations, you have to be realistic,” coach Martin St. Louis said. “The progress of our team this year has been good. If you focus only on the results, it’s hard to continue to advance with the stage we’re at.

“The atmosphere is great, the guys’ attitude is good, the work ethic is good. We’ve been very competitive this season and we hope to continue to progress to the next level, beyond just being competitive.”

Montreal arrives in Ottawa for the middle of a three-game road trip before it closes out the season at home. The trip began with a 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Islanders, a tilt in which the Canadiens twice held a one-goal lead.

It was their fourth loss in the past five games and fifth in the past seven.

“If we want to be in the same place in the standings as these teams next season and react the right way when it really counts, we have to get used to playing these games now,” defenseman Mike Matheson said.

The Canadiens have struggled against the Senators over the past few seasons, losing eight straight to their division foe, all in regulation, while being outscored 40-18. They haven’t defeated Ottawa since March 19, 2022.

After going six games without a goal, Cole Caufield has now scored in five of his past six games. The winger had a goal and an assist against the Islanders, giving him seven points (five goals, two assists) in a six-game point streak.

Caufield has 25 goals on the season, one shy of his career high set last year.

-Field Level Media

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