Andrei Markov doesn't always seem thrilled to speak with the Montreal media. On Saturday night, he just couldn't help himself.
Markov scored two goals and set up another and the Canadiens beat the Ottawa Senators 3-1 to retain first place in the Atlantic Division.
"Tonight I just had opportunities to shoot," Markov said. "I closed my eyes and shot."
Shea Weber also scored for Montreal, which leads Ottawa by three points, although the Senators have a game in hand.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored for Ottawa, which had won two straight. Montreal swept three games in an eight-day span from the Senators and is 3-1-1 against its closest rival this season.
"It's a big team win," Markov said. "The last couple of games we didn't play good enough, so we brought our focus back.
"Sometimes those things happen. You win a couple of games and you relax a bit. There's no time to relax now."
Carey Price stopped 31 shots for Montreal, and Craig Anderson had 21 saves for Ottawa.
"I thought we created quite a bit tonight," Senators forward Zach Smith said. "Price had to make a few sprawling saves.
"As long as we're getting the chances, we can still be positive around here."
And they are not out of the hunt for the division, either.
"It's fun to have a kind of miniseries with them, but it hurts to come up short," Smith said. "The last two were tough, especially when we're so close in the standings and we're fighting for that first spot. But we've been resilient all year. We're still in a very good place. We're still positive. We're looking forward to a chance to meet them again, whether it's the playoffs or next year."
The Senators controlled most of the play and outshot Montreal 11-6 in the first period, but the Canadiens emerged with the lead after Weber blasted in his 17th of the season from the left point during a power play at 9:28 after Erik Karlsson was sent off for holding.
Montreal upped the pressure in the second, and Markov walked in from the left point and drilled a shot past Anderson at 1:13.
Karlsson's pass into the middle of Ottawa's zone was picked off by Markov, and he blasted a shot during a power play at 5:55. It was the 38-year-old Markov's first two-goal game since Jan. 11, 2014. He even celebrated, mimicking a swordsman sheathing his weapon after the goal.
"I was happy," he said. "My boy had a birthday on Monday and I guess now I don't have to go to the store to buy a present for him. I'm going to give him a puck from tonight."
Mike Hoffman made a clever move at the Montreal blue line and fed Pageau for an offspeed shot that fooled Price at 12:11. It was Pageau's seventh goal in 15 career games against the Canadiens.
NOTES: Anderson played his 500th regular season game. ... With Marc Methot (finger) and Viktor Stalberg (upper body) out, Fredrik Claesson moved in as Karlsson's defense partner. ... Ottawa F Mark Stone returned after missing seven games with a lower-body injury. ... Nathan Beaulieu and Dwight King returned to Montreal's lineup, replacing Brandon Davidson and Andreas Martinsen.
Senators: Travel to Philadelphia for a game Tuesday night.
Canadiens: Host Dallas on Tuesday night before wrapping a six-game homestand against Florida on Thursday.