Senators put all the pressure on Canadiens

MONTREAL -- The longtime face of the Ottawa Senators entered the visitors dressing room in the Bell Centre, a smile as wide as can be as he congratulated his former teammates on another season-saving victory.

Hey, Daniel Alfredsson is no different than anyone else witnessing what the Senators have done over the past two months. He's marveling at their ability for two months now to play no-tomorrow hockey.

"They just have a feeling in the locker room that they're never out of it," Alfredsson said after his former team waxed the Montreal Canadiens 5-1 to once again keep their season alive.

"No matter how much they're backed into a corner, it seems like they still believe. Today is a perfect example. I thought Montreal started really good, but we get the first goal and it's like, OK, that's good, we're on track. It's really impressive."

Notice how the longtime captain of the Senators slipped into "we" mode halfway through that answer. It's impossible to control your heart, and it was pounding for him sitting next to Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray as the Senators weathered an early push by a Canadiens team looking to wrap up the series in fives games, only to see the Senators jump out to a 2-0 first-period lead, which would be enough.

"Yeah, I was nervous sitting up there watching," said Alfredsson, who has been offered a job with the organization but is going to take more time before deciding his future.

"It's fun to see what confidence can do and guys believing in each other. And this group certainly does."

Yes, the team of destiny seems back on track after some nervous moments earlier in this series. And certainly that 3-0 series hole they dug might still be too much to overcome, because you know Vezina Trophy finalist Carey Price is going to bounce back hard Sunday in Ottawa for the Canadiens.

The Senators, though, were such a loose bunch at the morning skate Friday that you wouldn't know that their season was on the line yet again. But maybe it's because it's been on the line for so long now?

"I think in the regular season being that far out of the playoffs and working out way back, it put the mental mindset in this dressing room that we can come back from anything,” said Senators winger Mike Hoffman. "Just don’t look at the bigger picture, just take it game by game. That’s how we managed to get ourselves here in the first pace. The last month and a half of the season we were playing every game like it was a playoff game and every period like it was overtime. You now, it worked out for us."

Let's not sugarcoat this, the pressure most definitely in this series has shifted to the Canadiens. Los Angeles Kings center Mike Richards earlier this week told us about his experiences in being on the past two NHL teams to erase 3-0 series deficits. He felt the pressure shifts with the Game 5 win. No question that's true here, too.

"When you're in our shoes there and we were facing elimination, I mean the pressure's on us," Senators coach Dave Cameron said. "Each game you win, to live another day, the pressure I think shifts a bit towards Montreal."

The spotlight is on the Habs now. They have given the Senators life.

"At the end of the day, we're up 3-2," star Habs winger Max Pacioretty said. "This is a good team we're playing against. Nobody said it was going to be easy. They definitely have a lot of heart. They battled back from the trade deadline and played some of the best hockey in the league. We were expecting them to play that well and their goalie is playing probably the best I've seen him play. We can't focus on that. We've got to worry about winning one game and winning a series."

If the Habs are going to win one of the next two games, they have to figure out Craig Anderson. The veteran Sens netminder raised his record to 6-2 against the Habs in his two playoff series against them, and Friday night's 45-save performance has him now stopping 120 of 123 shots in the series.

Between the two playoff series in 2013 and this season, Anderson has now stopped 291 of 303 shots against the Habs for a ridiculous .960 save percentage.

"I'm going to say it again: He's got a history of that," Cameron said. "Being a real good goaltender in crucial games in the playoffs, so I don't know why anybody's surprised by it. We didn't expect anything less."

Scoring a power-play goal would help for the Habs, who were 0-for-3 Friday night and are now 1-for-19 in the series.

"It should be magnified. It hasn't been good," Habs power-play quarterback P.K. Subban said of his team's power play. "We've got to simplify things. We've got to get bodies in front and keep in simple. You look at them, they're just putting pucks at the net, getting guys in front. I mean yes, they get a lucky bounce, it hits my stick. But that's a part of the game, and the only way you get those bounces is by getting there. You got to get there, and you got to get there all the time."

Odds are the Habs have this series. But the Senators aren't your run-of-the-mill underdog story, either.

The visitors dressing room mostly emptied out Friday night, Senators captain Erik Karlsson was asked what other team resembles what his squad has done over the past two months.

"The 2010 Flyers I remember made the playoffs on the last day on a shootout and then made it to the Cup final," Karlsson said. "That's one I think of."

It just so happens those 2010 Flyers also erased a 3-0 series deficit to Boston en route there.

Can the Senators really beat Price, the game's best goalie, four straight?

It's hard to believe they can, and yet ...

"There's just no quit in them," Alfredsson said. "They seem to respond well under pressure. I think everybody knows it might run out, but they're going to give everything they have until it does. Tonight's a perfect example of that."