HabsWorld.net -- 

(AP) An easy season-opening win over the Montreal Canadiens sparked the Ottawa Senators to a great start.
Apparently the loss was not too upsetting to the Canadiens.

While Ottawa opening in strong fashion is no surprise, Montreal doing the same was a lot less expected. The Northeast Division clubs now square off for the second time in a little more than two weeks.

The Senators, who finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference last season, have won three in a row and have failed to gain a point in only one of their six games. However, they are looking up in the standings at the Canadiens, who are tied with the Boston Bruins for first place in the Northeast despite losing 5-2 at Ottawa on Oct. 9.

Montreal has since won five of six, surrendering just four goals in that span. The good start was somewhat unanticipated, considering the Canadiens missed the playoffs last season and have finished no higher than third in the Northeast Division the last 10 years.

Jose Theodore has allowed three goals in his last five starts and Thursday’s 3-0 victory over the New York Islanders marked his second shutout, matching his total from all of last season.

“We’ve played really well as a team and I think if we keep playing the same way, the same system, there’s going to be more shutouts, that’s for sure, because we’re playing well defensively,” said Theodore, who made 34 saves Thursday for his 19th career shutout.

As good as Theodore has been, it’s hard to say anything negative about the play of Ottawa’s Patrick Lalime.

Lalime has been in net for all three games during the Senators’ current win streak, stopping 72 of 74 shots.

Ottawa’s offense got a boost Thursday as Martin Havlat made his first appearance since ending his holdout. Havlat, fourth on the team last season with 59 points, had two assists in his return as the Senators beat the Washington Capitals 5-2.

“It felt good to be back and have a chance to play again,” he said. “It’s a plus getting a couple of points, but the most important thing is winning.”