By Daniel Rainbird, The Canadian Press on January 23, 2024.
MONTREAL – Shane Pinto is hitting the ground running, and his teammates aren’t surprised.
Pinto scored his first goal of the season as the Ottawa Senators defeated the Montreal Canadiens for the second time in six days with a 4-1 win on Tuesday night.
The 23-year-old showed little rust in just his second game since serving a 41-game suspension for “activities related to sports wagering.”
“That’s Shane,” said Senators defenceman Jake Sanderson, who also played a season with Pinto at the University of North Dakota in 2020-21. “He’s a competitor. He’s a baller. He just brings it every night.
“He’s mentally strong, and if there’s a guy to go through (that suspension), it’s him. He’s kind of brought some light to our team recently.”
Sanderson and Ridly Greig also scored while Mathieu Joseph added an empty-net goal for Ottawa (18-24-1), which won its fourth game in six outings. Joonas Korpisalo made 25 saves.
The Senators extended their win streak over the Canadiens to eight games, dating back to April 5, 2022.
Pinto’s return coincides with Ottawa’s “Moms Trip” – something that’s also brightening the locker room. The Senators went 2-0 with both Pinto and their mothers on board.
“I really notice a lot more life with the guys, like even on the bus from the rink to the plane,” Senators head coach Jacques Martin said. “A lot more joy.”
That was apparent post-game, as ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” and “Take A Chance On Me” blared outside the visitors’ room.
“They’re going pretty hard back there,” forward Claude Giroux said while holding back his laughter. “It’s great for them to be able to win. They’ve done so much for us our whole career and they’re having a blast right now.”
Johnathan Kovacevic, back in the lineup after three games as a healthy scratch, scored the lone goal for Montreal (19-21-7) and Jake Allen stopped 24 shots.
The Canadiens lost their third game in a row after a 9-4 defeat to the Boston Bruins on Saturday and a 6-2 loss in Ottawa on Thursday.
“I thought we gifted them three goals there,” Montreal captain Nick Suzuki said on Tuesday’s effort. “Obviously a really bad breakdown off the faceoff, leaving a guy open in the slot and a breakaway – other than that, I thought the PK did a great job.
“The PP we struggled to generate tonight and that was probably the difference.”
Montreal went 0-for-5 on the power play – and allowed a short-handed goal – against an Ottawa penalty kill that ranked 31st in the NHL (72.7 per cent) entering the game. The Senators were also 0-for-5 with the man-advantage.
An unmarked Greig buried a rebound off a short-handed faceoff in Montreal’s zone to open the scoring at 7:45 of the first period and kick-start Ottawa.
“I think the first goal hurt, that was a gift,” Montreal coach Martin St. Louis said. “It put us back on our heels a bit, our confidence is a little fragile right now.
“When you give gifts in this league it’s hard to win.”
The Senators needed just 41 seconds to double their lead as Sanderson picked up a loose puck in the slot and rifled a wrist shot past Allen to suck the life out of Bell Centre.
Pinto poured it on by scoring on a breakaway at 6:22 of the second to make it 3-0 after a beautiful stretch pass from Giroux sent him in alone.
“I can’t make that play, I’ll tell you that,” Pinto said of Giroux. “He’s just so smart. The savviness he has out there is unbelievable.”
Montreal went on the power play four different times in the second but had trouble generating quality scoring chances, leading to heavy jeers from the home crowd.
Sharpshooter Cole Caufield – riding a five-game goal streak – had a chance to make it six but Korpisalo denied him with a glove stop with five minutes left in the period.
The Canadiens put the pressure on to start the third and Kovacevic finally broke through with 7:29 left in the game by scoring from the point.
Joseph then buried his empty-net goal with 2:27 to put the game to bed.
Canadiens: Host the New York Islanders in head coach Patrick Roy’s return to Montreal on Thursday.
Senators: Open a three-game homestand Thursday against the Boston Bruins.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2024.