Without leading scorer Tyler Toffoli, who remains out with a lower-body injury, the Montreal Canadiens have had to rely even more heavily on the line of Tomas Tatar, Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher.
Montreal's top trio combined for six points Thursday night as the Canadiens won 4-1 against the host Ottawa Senators. The teams are scheduled to complete their home-and-home series on Saturday night in Montreal.
Danault and Gallager each had a goal and an assist and Tatar had two helpers as the Canadiens won their second in a row after having to pause their season for nine days because of coronavirus concerns.
"We're missing our best goal-scorer," Danault said. "But a good, cultured team always finds a way to win without a superstar player, if I can say that. We all stick to the system, game after game. Whoever is in, if we buy into the system, that's how you win and that's what we are doing right now."
As for the chemistry with Gallagher and Tatar, Danault has a theory.
"We've been playing together for two seasons, and we're getting better and better and capitalizing on our chances," Danault said. "We did it the last two seasons and we're still doing it this year when our team needs it the most."
Montreal extended its point streak to six games (4-0-2) and took a six-point lead on both Calgary and Vancouver in the chase for the fourth and final playoff berth from the North Division. The Canadiens have four games in hand on those two teams.
Goaltender Jake Allen made 22 saves to post his first victory since Feb. 6.
"I've played behind a few good teams in the past, I've been very fortunate," Allen said. "(Thursday) I felt like I was behind one of those really good teams again. Just the way the guys supported the puck, they were in the right positions, they were patient with it, they dumped pucks in, they didn't force any plays."
Allen said the Canadiens are becoming accustomed to the ways of interim coach Dominique Ducharme, who replaced the fired Claude Julien on Feb. 24.
"It's taken some time to buy into a system that (Ducharme) has put into place," Allen said. "I've been through coaching changes. It takes a couple weeks, a month. I think that things are really starting to click, and guys are buying in. If we can do that consistently, we'll have a good chance to win most nights."
The Senators, who were playing for the first time in a week, had a six-game point streak (3-0-3) come to an end.
Connor Brown scored the lone goal for Ottawa and Filip Gustavsson made 34 saves.
"I think our intensity level was rusty, more than our skills," Senators coach D.J. Smith said. "You've got to get that compete level at 100. They're a desperate team over there and we weren't as desperate.
"They've got guys that want to get to the net, and we've got to be willing to hold them off. It's the same thing offensively. If you want to score, you've got to get to the net. And they got to our net, but we didn't get to theirs."
--Field Level Media