The Caps went into this game 5-8-2 since January 1st, 3-2-1 on the road. The Canadiens, who played their first game under new head coach Martin St. Louis, came into the game with a 4-20-6 record since November 13th, 2-9-0 on home ice.
For a change, it was a Capital who scored his first NHL goal to open the scoring. Joe Snively jumped on a rebound of a shot by Justin Schultz that beat goalie Cayden Primeau on the blocker side at the 5:04 mark.
Washington scored just 20 seconds later, Connor McMichael from the high slot throwing a soft enough looking shot that eluded Primeau through the five hole to make it 2-0, Caps, just 5:24 into the contest.
The Caps had a chance to extend their lead to three goals just 16 seconds later when Garnet Hathaway had a breakaway. In alone on Primeau, his shot was turned aside to keep the lead at two goals.
The woes for the home team continued when they took a
penalty – Ben Chiarot arm-barring Daniel Sprong to the ice behind the Canadiens’
net and going off for interference at 6:24 of the period. The Caps failed to convert, though.
Montreal went to their first power play of the game when Dmitry Orlov was sent off for interference at the 9:56 mark. The Caps had the best chance on the power play, though, when Garnet Hathaway’s stuff attempt from in close was turned aside by Primeau. The game went on, still a 2-0 Caps lead. It would be the lead that the Caps took to the first intermission.
-- Washington outshot Montreal, 11-10, in the period while the teams split 30 shot attempts down the middle, 15 apiece.
-- Justin Schultz led the Caps with four shots on goal; Connor McMichael was the only other Cap with more than one (three).
-- The Caps were out-hit in the period, 19-7, but then again, they seemed to have the puck all the time in that period.
-- John Carlson logged 8:42 in ice time to lead the team; Joe Snively had the least (3:23).
-- The Caps were 10-for-11 in faceoffs for the period but with wildly different results in the offensive (1-for-5) and defensive zones (7-for-10).
Washington took a 3-0 lead early in the period when Carl Hagelin sped down the left wing boards and snapped a shot from the goal line extended up and over Primeau’s right shoulder on the short side at the 3:40 mark.
Montreal got that one back less than half a minute later when Rem Pitlick took advantage of a crowd in front of goalie Ilya Samsonov to tap in a shot from the paint to make it 3-1 at the 4:09 mark.
The two-goal Caps lead lasted all of 1:09, but it would be the Caps restoring their three goal lead when Snively potted his second goal of the evening. Taking a long lead pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov, he skated into the Montreal zone, walked the puck around defenseman Jeff Petry to the middle of the ice, and then he snapped a shot past Primeau at the 5:18 mark. That goal ended Primeau’s evening in favor of Sam Montembeault.
Montreal went to a power play when Nicklas Backstrom was sent off for cross-checking at 8:03 of the period. The Canadiens failed in their second try with the man advantage.
The Caps went on a power play of their own at the 12:08 mark when Jake Evans went off for tripping Tom Wilson behind the Montreal net. The Caps didn’t score on their chance, either.
And the back and forth power plays continued when Montreal went a man to the good, courtesy of a Lars Eller slashing call at the 14:56 mark. Nic Dowd had a chance to get the Caps on the board shorthanded but his shot caromed off the post. Montreal then took advantage, Cole Caulfield getting the Habs on the board at the 15:58 mark with a backhand shot that sailed over Samsonov’s shoulder and into the top of the net. The teams went to the second intermission as it started, with the Caps holding a two-goal lead, 4-2.
-- Montreal out-shot the Caps, 18-8, in the period and out-attempted them, 24-15.
-- The Canadiens held a 27-11 edge in credited hits through 40 minutes. Martin Fehervary had five of the Caps’ 11 hits.
-- Justin Schultz led the Caps with five shots on goal and six shot attempts through 40 minutes.
Montreal was awarded its fourth power play of the game when Martin Fehervary was called for tripping at the 3:40 mark. The Canadiens did not convert, and the two-goal lead was preserved. They received their fifth man advantage opportunity when Brett Leason went off for tripping at 8:50 of the period. The power play was wiped out when Chris Wideman went off for high sticking at 9:30 of the period. The ensuing abbreviated power play for the Caps was without event.
Cole Caufield got the Canadiens within a goal when he eluded Justin Schultz and snapped a shot from the left wing hash marks past Samsonov’s blocker at 14:51 of the period…or so one thought. But the play was ruled offside when Tyler Toffoli, just outside the blue line gloved the puck down back into the offensive zone. The goal was washed out.
Tom Wilson put the game in the bank with an empty net goal at 18:45.
-- When Montreal allowed the first goal, it was the 31st time in 46 games that they allowed the first goal, the 15th time in 21 home games that they did so. With the loss, they are 2-25-4 when allowing the first goal (worst record in the league), and 2-13-0 on home ice when trailing first (tied with Arizona for worst record in the league).
-- Carl Hagelin’s goal was his first against a goalie since he beat Anaheim’s John Gibson in a 4-3 Gimmick win over the Ducks on December 6th (he had an empty netter against Nashville on December 29th in a 5-3 win), breaking a 20-game streak of goallessness against goalies.
-- This was the second time in four games that Ilya Samsonov faced more than 40 shots. He faced 45 shots against Pittsburgh in a 4-3 overtime win on February 1st and faced 44 shots in this contest.
-- Montreal outshot the Caps overall, 44-23, and out-attempted them 68-37; they outshot the Caps 34-12 over the last 40 minutes.
-- The Caps won 29 of 57 draws (50.9 percent); Nic Dowd continued his dominance of late, winning 16 of 22 draws (72.7 percent). That makes 57-for-76 over his last four games (75.0 percent).
-- Justin Schultz finished with five shots on goal to lead the team, as did his seven shot attempts.
-- Montreal had a 32-15 advantage in credited hits. Martin Fehervary led the team with five.
-- An odd game for the defense. They had five points (all assists) from the defense, but three defensemen – John Carlson, Nick Jensen, and Trevor van Riemsdyk – did not have a shot attempt.
-- The Caps got multi-point games from Joe Snively (2-1-3), Schultz (0-2-2) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (0-2-2).
-- The five shorthanded situations face by the Caps was the most in a road game since they went short six times in a 5-4 overtime loss to Chicago on December 15th.
In the end…
It was a win, but it might have been the ugliest win of the season for the Caps. When they recorded their fourth goal 5:18 into the second period, you could almost hear the air leaking out of the balloon over the remainder of the game. They looked like a team playing its third game in four nights, relying on poke checks and Ilya Samsonov as their “defense.” Samsonov was up to the challenge (surviving a scare late in the game when his right knee appeared to buckle under him as he was attempting to make a save), albeit against a team that can’t score, but team defense was ghastly over those last 34-plus minutes. An opponent with a pulse on offense would have buried this defensive effort. But a win is a win, and they all count for two points, and that is never a bad thing.