MONTREAL - Alex Kovalev returned to the Montreal Canadiens' lineup Saturday and had a goal and two assists in a 5-3 win over the Ottawa Senators.
Kovalev, who skipped Montreal's last two games on the road at general manager Bob Gainey's request, drew an ovation after he set up Tomas Plekanec's power-play goal 2:23 in.
The Russian right wing got an even bigger cheer when he scored an unassisted goal at 5:38 to put the Canadiens up 2-0, and still more adulation from the sold-out Bell Centre crowd of 21,273 when he dove to clear a puck out of the zone while killing a penalty moments later.
Kovalev got his third point of the game with an assist as Montreal took a 4-0 lead on Patrice Brisebois' power-play goal in the second, the Canadiens' third with the man advantage.
Mathieu Schneider also scored on the power play earlier in the second and Mathieu Dandenault got Montreal's fifth goal with 19 seconds remaining in the middle period.
Canadiens backup Jaroslav Halak made 44 saves.
Montreal had dropped 12 of 15, including a 5-4 loss in Pittsburgh on Thursday to finish a season-high six-game road trip with a 1-4-1 mark.
Dany Heatley scored twice for Ottawa, which has lost three in a row following a season-high five-game winning streak.
Jarkko Ruutu and Heatley scored in the second to cut the Senators' deficit to 4-2.
Chris Campoli assisted on both second-period goals in his Ottawa debut. The defenceman and centre Mike Comrie were acquired from the New York Islanders on Friday in a trade for veteran Dean McAmmond and a first-round draft pick.
Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson assisted on Heatley's power-play goal late in the third in his return after sitting out Thursday's 5-2 loss to Vancouver because of a fractured jaw. Alfredsson, who wore a full face shield, was originally expected to miss at least a week after he was hit by a puck shot by Heatley in a 3-2 overtime loss in Colorado on Tuesday.
Kovalev helped Montreal jump out to a 1-0 lead when he set up Plekanec for a shot into an open right side. He made it 2-0 moments later when he stripped the puck from defenceman Chris Phillips in the Ottawa zone and continued toward the net before converting a shot from the inside edge of the right faceoff circle.
Schneider, who was reacquired by the Canadiens in a trade with Atlanta on Monday, scored for the second straight game when he drove a slap shot from the right point into the top left corner 3:25 into the second.
Notes: Comrie began his second stint with the Senators. He also played for Ottawa in 2007 when the team reached the Stanley Cup final before losing in five games to Anaheim ... Schneider, who began his career with the Canadiens, has points in each of his three games with Montreal, including an assist in Wednesday's 4-3 overtime loss in Washington, his first game with the Canadiens since 1995 ... The Senators begin an eight-game homestand Tuesday against the Carolina Hurricanes (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200).