By Kelsey Patterson, The Canadian Press
MONTREAL – Goaltender Andrew Hammond isn’t used to picking the puck out of the back of his net so often.
Hammond was beaten four times in less than 10 minutes in the second period, and the Ottawa Senators dropped Game 1 of their first-round playoff series 4-3 to the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday.
“You want to make that next save, and I wasn’t able to do that tonight,” said Hammond, who stopped 35-of-39 shots in his first career playoff game. “We had a pretty good first period for being on the road and trying to get our feet under us.
“In the second period, the wheels fell off a little bit.”
Hammond gave up more than three goals just twice in 24 regular-season games. He came into Wednesday’s contest with a 1.79 goals-against-average and a .941 save percentage. The 27-year-old’s 20-1-2 record is largely responsible for the Sens’ improbable end-of-season run to the playoffs.
The Surrey, B.C., native, who was recalled to Ottawa from the American Hockey League on Jan. 29, made two crucial saves in the game’s first five minutes. Hammond got his pad on a wicked shot by Dale Weise three minutes in and made a blocker save on Torrey Mitchell on a breakaway two minutes later.
Hammond made eight saves in the first period and went into the intermission with a 1-0 lead.
But the Canadiens found an answer for Hammond in the second.
Mitchell beat the Senators netminder with a backhanded wraparound at 7:53 to open the floodgates. Tomas Plekanec went five-hole on Hammond 15 seconds later to put the Habs in front 2-1.
Lars Eller walked in all alone on a short-handed breakaway at 11:42 of the middle frame, beating Hammond up top. And Brian Flynn scored the winner at 17:17, forcing his way to the front of the net and pushing the puck past Hammond’s outstretched pad.
“Those chances in the second period, it wasn’t so much them earning it, we gave them too much time and space,” said Hammond, who faced a total 19 shots in the second. “If we do a better job limiting their time, and getting bodies between them and the net, we’ll do a better job in the rest of the series.”
Though the Senators gave up a rare four-spot, winger Clarke MacArthur is not hitting the panic button.
“Hammy’s been great,” said MacArthur. “We’re fine. If you give up two or three breakaways, what do you want the guy to do? He’s been solid for us the whole way and we’re going to fight for him.”
Hammond was public enemy No. 1. all evening, with the Bell Centre faithful booing him and chanting his name with derision throughout the game.
“You hear it, but I don’t think it bothers me. It comes with the territory,” said Hammond. “It’s not the first time it happens to me. Obviously there are a few more fans here and that changes it, but that’s part of the experience. Just because they’re singling me out doesn’t change anything.
“It wasn’t something that rattled me or anything like that.”
Hammond, who made 12 saves in the third to keep his team within one, will be between the pipes for Game 2 of the series on Friday.
Notes: Montreal defenceman P.K. Subban was ejected from the game in the second period for slashing Ottawa’s Mark Stone. â€¦ Milan Michalek, Kyle Turris and Mika Zibanejad scored for the Senators. â€¦ Carey Price made 30 saves.