Not This Time – When Washington’s franchise record 14-game winning streak came to and end last season, it was halted here in Montreal with a 6-5 overtime loss to the Habs on Feb. 10, 2010. A disallowed Alex Ovechkin goal prevented the Capitals from possibly winning that one in regulation.
The Capitals hauled an eight-game winning streak into Montreal on Tuesday night. When Matt Hendricks’ first-period goal was mysteriously and inexplicably ruled to be “no goal,” and when the Caps failed to cash in on a lengthy 5-on-3 power play in the final minutes of the first, they let the Habs hang close.
Sure enough, Montreal managed to pull even at 2-2 on an Andrei Kostitsyn goal (the 11,000th home goal in Habs history) early in the second frame. But the Caps didn’t wither, outshooting their hosts 19-6 in the middle period. They kept coming at the Canadiens in waves. Their offensive stick-to-itiveness didn’t pay off until the third, but final frame strikes from Marcus Johansson (his second of the night) and Mike Knuble were enough to propel the Capitals to a 4-2 win.
Washington’s nine-game winning streak is the third longest in franchise history, and its six-game road winning streak is tied for the team’s longest road run in 36 seasons in the league. The Capitals’ previous six-game winning streak came nearly 27 years ago, in the final six road games of the 1983-84 season.
Braden Holtby earned his ninth win of the season in the Washington nets, marking the second straight season in which the Caps have had three different goaltenders win nine or more games. The Capitals have never had three netminders with 10 or more wins in the same season.
Holtby now has one fewer win than Semyon Varlamov, who has played in 24 games to Holtby’s 13 on the season.
Centers Of Attention – Caps center Nicklas Backstrom sat out a fourth straight game with a thumb injury on Wednesday, and veteran Washington pivot Jason Arnott did not travel with the team because of an injury, missing his first game since coming to the Caps in a Feb. 28 deal with the Devils.
Washington may have been without its top two centers, but it didn’t show on the ice. Johansson and Brooks Laich were arguably the Capitals’ top two performers in this one. Both were consistently solid in all three zones and the twosome accounted for three of the Capitals’ four goals on the night.
Johansson notched the second two-goal game of his NHL career and logged upwards of 17 minutes (17:13) for the fifth straight game, the first time he has had an ice time run like that in his NHL career. He has four goals and 11 points in his last 15 games.
Laich scored his 16th goal of the season, finishing a pretty tape-to-tape pass from Karl Alzner with an equally impressive drive to the cage and subsequent move. Laich also skated 21:32 on the night, the second-highest ice time total of any Washington forward in the game and the second-highest total he has logged in any regulation-length (non-overtime) game this season.
Laich has two goals and four points in four games as a center since moving to that spot full-time while Backstrom has been sidelined.
Thriving In The Third – The Capitals have now scored at least one goal in the third period in each of their last five games. They had a five-game streak of scoring at least once in the third earlier in the season, from Nov. 9-17.
Washington has outscored its opponents by a collective total of 19-9 in the third period of its last 15 games.
The Caps have allowed fewer than 10 shots on goal in the third period of each of their last six games, and they’ve surrendered just two goals in the final frame of those half dozen games.
Up After One – After going 13 straight games without owning a lead after the game’s first period, the Caps have now held 2-1 advantages over the opposition in each of their last two games. Washington is now 16-1-5 when leading after the first 20 minutes this season.
For the second contest in a row, the Caps scored twice in the game’s first frame. Even with those four first-period goals in the last two games, Washington has scored the fewest first-period goals (43) of any club in the league.
Hot In The Pipes – Tonight’s game featured two of the league’s hottest netminders coming in. Washington goaltender Holtby was the NHL’s first star of the week for the week ending March 13. He went 4-0 in four appearances (three starts) last week, earning his first NHL shutout and posting a 1.05 GAA while stopping 110 of the 114 shots he faced to forge a .965 save pct.
Montreal’s Carey Price came into Tuesday’s game with the most minutes played (3,620), tied for the most games played (61) and tied for the most wins in the NHL (33).
In six March starts prior to Tuesday’s tilt, Price was 5-1 with two shutouts, a 1.17 GAA and a .965 save pct.
So naturally, both goaltenders were nicked for a goal within the first 86 seconds of Tuesday’s game.
Century City – Laich’s goal in the first period was the 100th of his NHL career. His first NHL goal also came against the Habs at Bell Centre on Nov. 19, 2005. That tally came in a 5-1 Washington win against Montreal netminder Yann Danis.
Laich also recorded his first NHL hat trick here against the Habs on Feb. 10, 2010.
Helper For Holtby – Holtby earned the first assist of his NHL career on Johansson’s first goal of the night, a power play strike at 1:06 of the first period. The assist was the first by a Washington netminder this season.
Each of the Capitals’ last two helpers from netminders has come on the power play. Jose Theodore earned an assist on an Alexander Semin power play strike last March 30 in a game against the Ottawa Senators.
Powering Up – After months in the doldrums, the Caps’ power play has started to rub the sleep from its eyes. With two power play strikes against the Canadiens tonight, Washington is now 5-for-14 (35.7%) with the extra man in its last four games. The Capitals have nudged up to an even 17% with the extra man on the season, tied for 19th in the NHL.
Band Of Brothers – We’ve seen the Caps coming together like a band of brothers over the last month or so, and we saw more evidence of that process early in tonight’s tilt.
On his first shift of the night, Caps center Jay Beagle laid a clean but hard hit on Montreal’s Travis Moen. Veteran Habs blueliner Paul Mara took exception, and responded with a hack to Beagle’s beak, giving the center a cut that required some stitching on the bench.
Caps winger Matt Bradley noted Mara’s unpenalized whack, and on the very next shift challenged Mara to a scrap. Bradley has played that brand of stand-up hockey since arriving in the District in 2005-06, so it’s no surprise to see him take a stand for the injustice done unto Beagle.
Men Down – Caps defenseman John Erskine sat out Tuesday’s game because of illness. He is listed as day-to-day, and should be able to return to the lineup on Wednesday in Detroit.
Washington right wing Eric Fehr left Tuesday’s game early in the second period and did not return.
Montreal also played a couple men down. Ex-Caps captain Jeff Halpern wasn’t seen on the ice or the bench after the early part of the second period, and Habs center Tom Pyatt also departed early.
Blueline Turnover – Only two of the six defensemen that dressed for Montreal’s season-opening game at Toronto on Oct. 7 were in the lineup for Tuesday’s tilt with the Capitals.
Veteran Hal Gill and rookie P.K Subban are the two defensemen who dressed for the opener who played on Tuesday. Jaroslav Spacek and Josh Gorges are both sidelined with injuries, Alexander Picard was scratched and Ryan O’Byrne was dealt to Colorado earlier in the season.
The Canadiens traded for a pair of veteran defensemen in February, picking up Mara from Anaheim on Feb. 16 and Brent Sopel from Atlanta on Feb. 24. Sopel is currently sidelined with an upper body injury.
By The Numbers – Scott Hannan blocked six shots on the night, single-handedly accounting for more than half of the Caps’ team total of 10 on the night … Laich and John Carlson paced the Capitals with half a dozen shots on goal each … Ovechkin recorded his 46th assist of the season, matching the lowest single-season total (2006-07) of his NHL career … Ovechkin got only one of his six shot attempts on goal; he had two bids blocked and missed the net on three occasions … Boyd Gordon was the game’s top draw man with 12 wins in 16 trips to the circle (75%) … Ovechkin led the Caps with four hits on the night … Montreal’s Ryan White led all skaters on both sides with seven hits, doing so with just 11:19 in ice time … Each team was charged with 15 giveaways on the night, but Montreal’s James Wisniewski (four) was the only player on either side who had more than one … The Capitals had more shots on goal while shorthanded (four) during the game than Montreal had while on the power play (three).
1 - 0 WSH
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 WSH
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 WSH
4 - 2 WSH
Holding the stick