MONTREAL - Andrei Kostitsyn scored two of Montreal's three first-period goals and the Canadiens clinched a playoff spot with a 7-5 win over the Ottawa Senators on Monday night.
Chris Higgins also scored in the first as Montreal beat Martin Gerber three times in the opening period while outshooting Ottawa 14-7.
The Canadiens added four goals in the second as Francis Bouillon, Andrei Markov, Mikhail Grabovski and Tom Kostopoulos scored on Ray Emery, who replaced Gerber to begin the middle period.
Carey Price stopped 31 shots for Montreal, which returned to the playoffs for just the fourth time in the past nine seasons.
The Canadiens, who were eliminated from playoff contention last season with a loss in Toronto in their final regular-season game, lead the Eastern Conference with 96 points and five games remaining.
Montreal extended its Northeast Division lead to seven points over Ottawa, which has six games remaining, including Tuesday night in Buffalo.
Dany Heatley got his 38th and 39th goals for the Senators, who scored four times in the third period after falling behind 7-1 late in the second.
Antoine Vermette, Martin Lapointe and Jason Spezza also scored for Ottawa, which had won five of its six previous games against Montreal this season.
|Antoine Vermette (20) gets upended by the Montreal Canadiens' Roman Hamrlik in front of Habs' goaltender Carey Price during the third period of the Senators' 7-5 loss on Monday. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)|
Kostitsyn opened the scoring 1:40 in with his 24th goal. Higgins made it 2-0 at 13:26 when he put his own rebound past Gerber, who was unable to cover the puck.
Kostitsyn got his second goal of the period — his 25th — on a power play at 18:24 as Gerber once again was unable to smother a puck in his crease.
Emery took over to begin the second and fared no better than Gerber, even after Vermette scored his 19th goal midway through the period to draw Ottawa within 3-1.
Bouillon scored his second of the season at 11:29 to restore Montreal's three-goal lead before Markov and Grabovski scored goals 42 seconds apart to make it 6-1 at 15:46.
Kostopoulos increased the lead to 7-1 when he got the Canadiens' fourth goal within 7:45 on a short-handed effort at 19:14.
Heatley, a 50-goal scorer the past two seasons, got his 38th goal 3:04 into the third to cut the lead to 7-2 and Lapointe made it 7-3 with his sixth of the season, his third in 12 games since he was traded to Ottawa by Chicago at the deadline.
Heatley got his second goal in just over six minutes when he beat Price for his team-leading 39th goal at 9:04 to draw the Senators within 7-4.
Spezza scored a power-play goal at 18:02 to cut the lead to two.