OTTAWA -- With playoff races on the horizon, the Ottawa Senators can't afford to savor even the biggest wins.
Dany Heatley scored his team-high 32nd goal early in the second period and Peter Schaefer scored during a power play later in the period, leading Ottawa to a 4-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night.
Jason Spezza scored his 21st with 1:31 remaining, an unassisted effort that pushed the Senators one point ahead of Montreal for second place in the Northeast Division.
Ottawa coach Bryan Murray watched Nashville's tight victory over Toronto after his club's win and noted that is the kind of hockey that will be common down the stretch of this season.
"This is the way the league is going to be so we have to buy in, we have to do it right, and we have to have everybody on board to do it," he said.
Chris Phillips scored in the first, and Ray Emery made 27 saves for the Senators, who lost 3-2 in Buffalo on Wednesday.
Ottawa is tied for fourth in the Eastern Conference with the Pittsburgh Penguins, whose 5-4 shootout win in Philadelphia dropped Montreal to sixth.
"You look at our last five games, they've been pretty tight," Heatley said. "Buffalo last night was a tough game, tonight was a tight game but I thought we won the special-teams battle. They had a couple of chances on some 5-on-3s, some 5-on-4s, and we had some big kills.
"Our power play might have been the best it's been all year. We only scored one goal but with the movement we had and the chances we had, it looked pretty good."
Canadiens rookie Guillaume Latendresse scored on a penalty shot late in the second to cut Montreal's deficit to 3-1.
The 19-year-old forward was awarded his first career penalty shot with 2:28 remaining in the frame when he was high-sticked and cut on the nose during a breakaway by Phillips, who was also assessed another penalty on the play. That was served after Latendresse scored his 11th goal.
"I was a bit nervous because the ice was in bad shape. But when (Emery) moved over he left an opening under his blocker and I took advantage of it," Latendresse said.
The Canadiens gave up eight power-play opportunities and failed to score on their six chances with the man advantage. Montreal, which entered with the NHL's second-ranked power play, has scored four goals in its last 32 opportunities.
"We had a goal and then we had a power play after that, and it's the same thing -- we seem to be tense," Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau said. "We're not patient with the puck. We want to score in the first 10 seconds of the power play instead of being patient and moving the puck around to take the shot, things that we were doing earlier."
Ottawa has allowed goals on each of the four penalty shots they have faced this season, including three against Emery at home.
With Andrei Markov sidelined by a knee injury for a third straight game, Montreal's defense took another hit when veteran Craig Rivet was unable to play because of illness.
Phillips opened the scoring at 4:32 with a slap shot off Cristobal Huet's glove for his seventh goal. The Montreal goalie raised his hands to his head as he flopped face down on the ice after watching the puck trickle slowly in behind him.
"Our goaltenders do have to get better," Carbonneau said. "This is seven games in a row that we've given up the first goal, and all of them, I think, have been in the first four or five minutes."
Huet stuck out his right pad to deny Andrej Meszaros' shot from the slot later in the period.
Ottawa defenseman Anton Volchenkov recorded his second straight assist 56 seconds into the middle period when Heatley made it 2-0. Heatley took Jason Spezza's centering pass and beat Huet from the slot.
Schaefer increased the lead to three with his 10th of the season at 16:05.
Huet made 35 saves for Montreal, which was outshot 39-28. ... Canadiens C Tomas Plekanec was cut when he was struck on the face by Senators C Antoine Vermette's stick off a faceoff shortly after Heatley's goal. Plekanec returned midway through the second. ... Despite skating with the team in the pregame warmup, Canadiens LW Sergei Samsonov was a healthy scratch for a third straight game. Carbonneau used LW Garth Murray in Rivet's spot. ... Emery was also beaten on penalty shots by Minnesota's Brian Rolston and Boston's Marco Sturm.