Batherson, Murray lead Senators over Canadiens 4-0

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MONTREAL — Drake Batherson followed the Montreal Canadiens religiously growing up in Nova Scotia.

He's making of habit of filling their net in 2021.

The winger with a bullet shot had two goals and an assist, Matt Murray made 23 saves to register his first shutout for the Senators, and Ottawa defeated Montreal 4-0 on Saturday.

"I remember playing in this building in my rookie year and I was so fired up," Batherson said. "This is a team I grew up watching every single game."

Artem Zub and Nikita Zaitsev, into an empty net, also scored for Ottawa (15-26-4), while Brady Tkachuk and Josh Norris both assisted on each of Batherson's goals.

The 22-year-old, who trains with fellow Nova Scotia product Sidney Crosby in the off-season, now has 11 points in eight games against the Canadiens in the NHL's pandemic-shortened campaign. The rebuilding Senators improved to 5-3-0 versus Montreal, while three of their six road wins have come at the Bell Centre.

"I get fired up coming to the play the Canadiens," Batherson added. "There's so much history here."

Murray, who won two Stanley Cups alongside Crosby with the Pittsburgh Penguins, said there's a lot to like about the youngster's game.

"He's obviously got a great shot, and he's got all the skill in the world," said the goaltender. "But I think it's his hockey sense that allows him to get into the right spots. He just seems to be one of those guys (where) the puck finds him.

"I'm impressed with him as a player and even more so as a person. He's a great kid, he works really hard, and he deserves this success that he's having."

Carey Price stopped 11 shots in his return to the lineup after missing six games with a lower-body injury for Montreal (19-14-9). The Canadiens continue to occupy the North Division's fourth and final playoff spot, six points up on the Calgary Flames with two games in hand.

"We just need to find some consistency," said Price, whose team picked up an emotional 2-1 victory over the Flames on Friday, but was unable to rally less than 24 hours later for Saturday's 4 p.m. ET start. "Everybody in the league wants to find that. Everybody in this league wants to win and everybody's playing hard.

"We've just got to find a way to do it on a nightly basis."

Acquired from Pittsburgh via trade in the fall before signing a four-year, US$25-million contract extension with Ottawa, Murray picked up the 12th shutout of his career, and first since Oct. 26, 2019.

It was also the franchise's first shutout since March 26, 2019, when Guy Boucher was still head coach.

"We showed a lot of maturity," Murray said. "We played the game the right way for 60 minutes."

Senators forward Shane Pinto, who snagged an assist on the empty-net goal, made his NHL debut after fellow University of North Dakota alumni and Ottawa defenceman Jacob Bernard-Docker — a healthy scratch against Montreal — did the same Wednesday.

"The first one's out of the way," Pinto said. "It's good to settle in."

The Senators led 1-0 after the first period and doubled their lead at 13:12 of the second when Batherson took a feed from Tkachuk and fooled Price through the five-hole for his 14th goal of the season.

Murray, who made his second straight start after missing 13 games with an upper-body injury, had to be sharp on a power play earlier in the period, stopping Eric Staal with his left pad on the doorstep.

Ottawa got its fourth power play with five minutes left in the third of a low-event game, and Batherson sealed the win at 15:26 going upstairs off another Tkachuk feed.

Zaitsev then iced it into an empty net with his second following a Pinto faceoff win in the defensive zone for his first NHL point.

"Really good," Ottawa bench boss D.J. Smith said of the 20-year-old centre. "He knows where to be on the ice and he'll only continue to get better."

Murray and his teammates then survived a late power play — including a puck off the post from Nick Suzuki — to preserve the shutout.

"It's nice," the netminder said of the goose egg. "It says a lot about how well the team played."

Coming off Wednesday's 3-2 home loss to the Winnipeg Jets, Ottawa opened the scoring 3:03 into the first when Batherson found Zub in the slot for the blue-liner to rip his third past Price.

Montreal sleepwalked through most of the opening 20 minutes, but got its best chance late when the snake-bitten Jonathan Drouin, now without a goal in his last 24 games, intercepted a pass only to be denied by Murray's poke check.

"Matt Murray made all the (saves) he had to," Smith said. "We turned the puck over probably more that we'd like, but he was there every single time."

Ottawa now heads west to open a road trip Monday in Calgary before travelling to Vancouver for two versus the Canucks. Montreal starts a five-game swing through Alberta the same day against the Edmonton Oilers, and concludes it with a crucial three games against the Flames.

"We came out hungry right from the get-go," Batherson said. "We got rewarded and we got some great goaltending.

"It was an awesome win."

Notes: The Senators and Canadiens play twice more this season — May 1 in Montreal and four days later in the nation's capital. ... Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme said before Saturday's game Brendan Gallagher (broken thumb) won't require surgery. The winger, who was injured April 5, is expected to be out until at least mid-May. ... Pinto is the fifth Ottawa player to make his NHL debut this season. ... Senators blue-liner Victor Mete, who was claimed off waivers Monday from Montreal, played against his former team.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 17, 2021.

The Canadian Press