Washington entered the contest on a five-game winning streak, and the Canadiens took the ice with points in six consecutive games. At the final horn it was the Capitals extending their winning streak to six games with a 3-2 win.
The Caps got on the board first, early in the first period. It was a classic instance of forechecking pressure in the Montreal zone that created the opportunity. Michael Latta consested Nathan Beaulieu behind the Montreal net, and Beaulieu gave up the puck along the boards. Brooks Laich pinched in along the wall, and with three Canadiens surrounding him, he found Tom Wilson circling through the left wing faceoff circle. Wilson took the pass, turned, and snapped a shot past goalie Mike Condon at the 2:26 mark.
The goal held up into the second period, but the Canadiens knotted the game mid-way through the period. Lars Eller scored from in tight just two seconds after a Montreal power play expired. The tie lasted into the final minute of the second period when T.J. Oshie scored an odd goal. The play started with the Caps entering the Canadien zone on a 3-on-2 rush, Nicklas Backstrom carrying the puck down the middle. After gaining the zone, Backstrom slid the puck off to his right to Oshie, who wristed a long-range shot off Condon’s blocker. The puck popped up into the air, Condon losing track of it. It fell and deflected off Condon’s right elbow into the net. After a brief discussion of whether a Capital redirected the puck with a high stick, the goal stood, and the Caps had a 2-1 lead going into the second intermission.
Montreal tied the game early in the third period. With the Caps on a power play, the Montreal penalty killers caught the Caps – Oshie and John Carlson, specifically – in the unfortunate position of trying to get into position as a battle for the puck was being waged along the wall. As both Oshie and Carlson turned into their respective positions, the puck sprang free, and Paul Byron fed Brian Flynn exiting the zone. Flynn was already several strides ahead of Oshie and Carlson, and Backstrom was still too far off along the wall, giving him and opening to head off on a breakaway. He skated in, deked goalie Braden Holtby, and tucked the puck around Holtby’s extended left pad.
Six minutes later, Oshie struck again. It was a simple play that few players could make. Alex Ovechkin collected the puck along the left wing wall and sent it up to Karl Alzner at the left point. Alzner fired the puck toward the net, and Oshie, from the inside of the left wing circle, redirected the puck out of mid-air and off the post to give the Caps a 3-2 lead that they would hold for their sixth straight win.
-- The six-game winning streak for the Caps is their longest since an eight-game streak late in the 2012-2013 season (April 2 – 16).
-- Holtby extended a pair of personal streaks in this game. He ran his personal winning streak overall to eight games, a career best, during which he has a goals against average of 1.85 and a save percentage of .935. He also extended his streak of games without a loss in regulation time to Montreal to nine (7-0-2, 1.40, .949, two shutouts).
-- The Caps extended their streak of games without a regulation loss at Bell Centre to 12 (10-0-2). Their last loss in regulation time in Montreal was on January 10, 2009, a 5-4 decision.
-- T.J. Oshie’s two-goal night was his first multi-goal game as a Capital. It was his first multi-point game since October 23rd in which he had two assists in a 7-4 win over the Edmonton Oilers.
-- The shorthanded goal by Brian Flynn was the first shorthanded goal allowed by the Caps this season. There are only three teams left that have not allowed a shorthanded goal – Edmonton Oilers, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Pittsburgh Penguins.
-- Tom Wilson’s goal gave him goals in consecutive games for the first time in his career, not to mention they are the first two goals he has this season.
-- With an assist, Alex Ovechkin has points in four straight games. It also means he has points in 17 and goals in 12 of the 23 games in which he has played. Through 23 games last season he had goals in 8 and points in 11 of the first 23 games he played. In both years he had 12 goals in his first 23 games.
-- With an assist, Nicklas Backstrom extended his points-scoring streak to four games, a season high for him.
-- Evgeny Kuznetsov had a quiet night – one shot attempt (shot on goal), no points, in 17 minutes and change. That makes consecutive games without a point for Kuznetsov, the first time that has happened since he opened the season without a point in his first two games.
-- John Carlson had an interesting game… seven shot attempts (no points), six giveaways and seven blocked shots. Add in the minor penalty he took, and it was a study in frenzied activity with little to show for it.
In the end…
It would be tempting to say that the Caps just keep doing what they do, but what they have been doing lately is a bit disturbing, and it was in full color in this game. Montreal recorded 56 shot attempts at 5-on-5 to 33 for the Caps, a Corsi-for percentage of 37.1 for the Caps that is their worst for a single game this season (numbers from war-on-ice.com). Teams don’t win on the basis of a PDO of 115.2. Well, they do, but it is not something they can sustain. This game was a case of goalie Braden Holtby stealing one right out of the hands of the Canadiens. The Caps need to have more balanced effort than that if they are to extend their winning streak much further.