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The Ottawa Senators and Jean-Gabriel Pageau are having a successful November

 Jean-Gabriel Pageau
Jean-Gabriel Pageau

The Ottawa Senators had Thursday to kick back, relax and spend some time feeling good about themselves.

Then, it’s back to work.

Coming off a 2-1 overtime victory over the Montreal Canadiens Wednesday night at the Bell Centre to close out a three-game road trip with four of six points, the Senators boarded the bus for a late night trip back to Ottawa and had the day off as they prepare to host the New York Rangers Friday night at the Canadian Tire Centre.

A glimpse at the NHL standings Thursday morning had the Senators sitting only three points out of the final wildcard spot in the East and a point behind the arch-rival Toronto Maple Leafs, who sent coach Mike Babcock packing Wednesday afternoon with the club in the midst of six-game losing skid before facing Arizona Thursday night on the road.

Heading into this month, the schedule looked like a pretty daunting task for the Senators, but the club has a 7-4-0 record through the first 11 games and is finding ways to win. No, they weren’t very good to start against the Habs after being outshot 12-3 in the first period, but Ottawa got its act together and brought home the two points.

The key is the Senators are making people around the league take notice that they’re not going to be a pushover.  Yes, the playoffs are still a longshot, however, the Senators want to make sure that they give themselves the chance to win every night and they’ve bought into the approach coach D.J. Smith is selling.

“We’re getting pretty fired up about it,” said alternate captain Mark Borowiecki after the club’s win in Montreal. “It’s a point of pride when people aren’t expecting much out of you and you’re getting ragged on all the time, to start clawing our back into things it kind of galvanizes the group and it’s definitely fun.”

Nobody is having more fun than centre Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

It wasn’t any surprise he scored his ninth career goal against the Habs in 20 games to tie the game 1-1 at 9:55 of the second, but this guy is having a month to remember. He has 10 goals in 11 games, lead the league in goal-scoring in the month and is only three goals shy of Daniel Alfredsson’s franchise-record for 13 goals in a month.

Though Smith has been reticent to make the move because Pageau plays an important role on this team, he’s even seen time on the struggling power play in the last two games. He finished with 21:16 of ice time in Game 2 of a back-to-back situation and by comparison that was second only to blueliner Thomas Chabot, who finished with 23:45.

Pageau, who tipped a blast by Tyler Ennis by Carey Price, can’t recall ever scoring at this pace at any level. He has 13-4-17 points in 22 games and is plus-17.

“I don’t ever remember having a heater like this before, not even in junior or anything,” he said post-game. “It’s a great feeling, I’m feeling confident in my abilities right now and I’m lucky to have the linemates and teammates that I have right now. We’re playing some pretty good hockey.”

Smith said Pageau is earning every opportunity he gets.

“It’s great. Everything he touches is going in the net,” Smith said. “But he’s working for it. Everything he gets, he works, he skates, he’s been working in practice and it’s great to see a guy get rewarded.”

Pageau’s teammates have certainly taken notice of the contributions he’s made.

“He’s hot, I mean he’s Mr. Hot, give him the puck and it’s going in the net,” said Tkachuk, who showed a great burst of speed to slide the puck through Price’s five-hole 38 seconds into the OT. “Last year and this year, playing with him, he just keeps things so simple, he plays the game the right way.

“As hot as he is offensively, he’s one of the best defensive centremen in the NHL. He’s so under-rated and he always plays against the top guys. You see his plus-minus this year and he’s always getting rewarded and I don’t think it’s going to stop. I think he’s going to be able to keep this ball rolling.”

Of course, the Senators would like to keep rolling with a short stop at home before heading to Columbus to face the Blue Jackets Monday night but the club is taking nothing for granted.

“We’re staying in games and we’re giving ourselves a chance,” Smith said. “Our goaltending has been very good, some of the callups have come in and filled roles and guys kind of slot into their roles nicely.

“I know everyone has picked us for dead-last but we’ve still got a ton of work to do, just we’ve had a really good stretch right now where we’re staying in games and we’re getting some timely goals.”

PAGEAU, PAGEAU, PAGEAU

No Senators’ player is hotter than Jean-Gabriel Pageau is right now. His 10 goals in November not only lead the league, he’s closing in on a franchise record. Courtesy of the NHL here’s a look at the Ottawa record holders for most goals in a month.

Daniel Alfredsson, Nov. 2005 13

Marian Hossa, Jan. 2003 12

Marian Hossa, Nov. 2002, 12

Alexei Yashin, Jan. 2001 12

Alexei Yashin, March 1999, 12

Dany Heatley, Jan. 2007 11

Bob Kudelski, Nov. 1983 11

J.G. Pageau, Nov. 2019, 10

bgarrioch@postmedia.com

Twitter: @sungarrioch


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