The Washington Capitals saw their four-game winning streak come to an end on Wednesday night when they dropped a 4-3 decision to the Montreal Canadiens at Verizon Center. The loss ended the Caps’ home winning streak at five games.
Montreal put the Caps in an early hole with a pair of first period goals. Alex Galchenyuk struck for the Canadiens when he put back a rebound of a Dale Weise shot at the 9:09 mark. Brendan Gallagher made it 2-0 late in the period on a power play, converting another rebound, this time of an Andrei Markov shot that Max Pacioretty tipped on its way through, Gallagher sweeping the loose puck around the left pad of goalie Braden Holtby.
The Caps fell further into the hole dug for them by the Canadiens when former Cap Tomas Fleischmann snapped a rebound past Holtby from the left wing faceoff circle. The goal ended Holtby’s evening in favor of Philipp Grubauer.
Washington got on the board less than four minutes after the Fleischmann goal when Jason Chimera jumped on a loose puck at the post to goalie Mike Condon’s left and chipped a backhand over his glove into the net at the 5:32 mark.
Any thoughts of a comeback were put on hold when Alex Galchenyuk scored his second of the night, finishing a 2-on-1 break by converting a pass from Lars Eller past Grubauer’s right pad 12:24 into the period.
The Caps added a goal in the third period when Dmitry Orlov took a wide swing from the neutral zone down the left wing and from a severe angle ripped a shot over Condon’s left shoulder and into the top of the net on the far side to make it 4-2 at the 12:24 mark.
Andre Burakovsky made things interesting late when he took a pass from Stan Galiev and from the top of the circles snapped a shot between Condon’s pads to make it 4-3 with 2:53 left. That would be as close as the Caps would get, though, as a Nicklas Backstrom drive from between the circles was gloved down by Condon with three seconds left to seal the 4-3 win for the Canadiens.
-- When Braden Holtby was relieved by Philipp Grubauer in the second period, it marked the fourth time in his last 14 appearances that he did not finish a game he started. Three of those instances are the only losses in regulation on his record over his last 37 appearances (edit...oops, this loss was pinned on Grubauer for allowing the fourth goal, but still).
-- Six shot attempts would be a pretty good night for most players, but for Alex Ovechkin that represents a rather quiet night. His two shots on goal was just the tenth time in 57 games he was held to two or fewer shots.
-- Brooks Orpik appeared in his 800th career game, and he had two assists. You could almost see this coming. It’s all about the “hundreds.” This season alone, Ovechkin scored two goals in his 800th career game (including his 500th career goal), and T.J. Oshie scored a goal in his 500th career game. When Brooks Laich appeared in his 500th game back in 2011, he scored a goal. A goal for Orpik might have been a bridge too far, but he had his first two-assist game of the season.
-- The power play continues to struggle. The 0-for-3 in this game made it 5-for-48 (10.4 percent) since Winter Storm Jonas ripped through Washington in late January. At least they spread the shots around. Five different players had one apiece.
-- Tom Wilson had a fairly bizarre night. He took two penalties in the first period of the “not the brightest thing he’s done this month” sort, and for his impertinence was provided a staple gun to staple his behind to the bench in the second period. He had one 55 second shorthanded shift. He took a regular turn in the third period with five shifts.
-- Ovechkin has turned into “Mr. Hockey Helper.” He had an assist, making three straight games he’s provided apples to teammates. It marked almost precisely a year since the last instance in which he had three consecutive regular season games with assists. In Games 57-59 last season (February 15-19) he had assists in each game.
-- Stan Galiev had a career high four shots on goal and an assist on Burakovsky’s goal.
-- When the Caps allowed a power play goal to the Canadiens late in the first period, it broke a four-game streak not allowing one.
-- Karl Alzner skated just 16:42 in ice time, his lowest amount of ice time this season and the lowest since he had 14:21 in ice time in a 4-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins last February 25th.
-- Wouldn’t you know it? The Caps win the Corsi battle (54-49 in shot attempts at 5-on-5) and lose the game. It wasn’t even a case of making a mad rush when they fell behind by three goals. The splits by period were 18-18 in the first, 17-13 Caps in the second, and 19-18 Caps in the third.
In the end…
This is not a happy tune the Caps are whistling lately. Fall behind early, comeback late. It's like the spring and autumn time changes, but different. This made six straight games in which the Caps allowed the first goal. Yes, they have the league’s best record when allowing the first goal, but it’s not like it is actually a good record (16-10-4). It is a disturbing trend in a larger context, that the Caps have been a rather unimpressive team in the first periods of games this season (a plus-2 goal differential after last night, 8-6-2 when trailing after one period). If there is something that needs attention, this is it. And with the Minnesota Wild coming to town on Friday, a top-ten team in first period goals scored this season, they should be paying attention.