For Randy Cunneyworth, walking into Scotiabank Place was an old familiar feeling. The former Ottawa Senators captain, now behind the bench in Montreal, had yet to squeeze a win from his team. After a 4-0 loss to the Winnipeg Jets heading into the holiday break, the Canadiens needed their offense to step up and take the load from Carey Price, but early indications had many fans expecting another long night.
Ottawa's Zack Smith would clean up a loose puck in a goal mouth scramble, slamming it past Price's shoulder less than two minutes into the match.
The Canadien's night appeared poised for another setback when Tomas Plekanec was called for a trip on Daniel Alfredsson, but Lars Eller battled for the puck from one end of the ice to the other before firing a shot past Craig Anderson shorthanded.
The Eller goal would combine with a Max Pacioretty / Brian Lee fight to shift the momentum of the game firmly into Montreal's favor, and Plekanec added fuel to the fire when he tipped in a Matthieu Darche shot from the top of the crease. Michael Cammalleri extended the Canadiens' lead late in the first period after picking up a Louis Leblanc rebound on an odd man rush, and the Habs took a 3-1 lead into the first intermission.
The Leblanc/Cammalleri combination struck again early in the second period, this time with Cammalleri leading a rush up ice and dishing off to Leblanc, scoring on another quick wrist shot from the high slot. After allowing four goals on seven shots, that was the end of the evening for Anderson, as Alex Auld took his place in the Ottawa net.
Following up his goal and assist, Leblanc arguably completed a Gordie Howe hat trick when he took a roughing penalty, mixing it up against Sergei Gonchar, while the veteran defenseman was whistled down for a matching cross check.
With the teams at 4-on-4, P.K. Subban committed an ugly turnover that Jason Spezza nearly converted on, but Carey Price was able to turn the scoring attempt aside. Erik Cole took the puck deep into the Ottawa zone before throwing the puck back to Subban, and the young defenseman made amends for his earlier mistake, burying a one-time shot.
Ottawa cut Montreal's lead when Jason Spezza captured the rebound from a Daniel Alfredsson shot at the side of the net and poked the puck past Price's outstretched leg pads, but still trailed 5-2 going into the final period.
The Canadiens locked down with the lead, limiting the Senators to just six shots in the third period, but received a late opportunity with a two-man advantage when Zach Smith was called for an elbow, and Nick Foglino followed him a few seconds later after a high sticking call. Erik Cole missed one attempt in front of the net but cashed in with just over a minute to go in the two-man advantage, tipping a shot from Tomas Plekanec at the side of the net with just over five minutes in regulation.
The six-goal explosion was the highest offensive output for Montreal this season, and the first time the Canadiens scored more than three goals since Jacques Martin was dismissed as head coach.