Michal Neuvirth made 31 saves in his first start since December 26th and the Washington Capitals got goals from three separate players Wednesday night to take out the Montreal Canadiens inside the Bell Centre. Hometown kid Mathieu Perreault, Marcus Johansson, and Alex Ovechkin scored the goals and nine different Capitals had points as well in the victory. With their win, Washington ensures they remain in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
After Matt Hendricks danced with Rene Bourque early as payback for the latter elbowing Nicklas Backstrom, Washington began to establish some pressure. The Capitals were then able to get an early lead when Perreault, who had spent the previous week as a healthy scratch, ripped one over Carey Price’s shoulder after less than five minutes. Johansson doubled the lead in short order with another shot over Price’s other shoulder, and then the Caps were awarded a power play, giving them a chance to really go for the jugular.
They could not add another, though, and soon enough the Habs began to pressure and earned their first two power plays of the evening over the next eight minutes, being unable to convert on either one. The period closed with DC ahead 2-0.
Montreal was granted a third power play less than three minutes into the second period to try and pick up more offensive punch, but again were listless and conceded a four minute power play to the visiting team. And after a very poor opening two minutes of the man advantage, Ovechkin walked in and pumped one past Price for a 3-0 lead, silencing the Bell Centre.
The Canadiens could not play poorly forever, though, and as the period continued began to establish a good forecheck and neutral zone presence, forcing Neuvirth into some nice saves, particularly with his glove hand. Montreal pushed particularly hard within the final 30 seconds of the period, but the frame ended with the Caps ahead 3-0.
At the beginning of the third period, the home team got a huge chance when John Erskine was given six minutes in penalties – four for high sticking and two for elbowing. Aided by a penalty my Max Pacioretty in the middle and some exceptional work in the goal by Michal Neuvirth, though, the Capitals once again kept Montreal from scoring.
The Habs got another power play, this time for delay of game, almost immediately, but again could not score, much to the chagrin of the Bell Centre crowd, which began to empty early. Over the last seven minutes, the Capitals shut it down, skating out with a 3-0 win.
Marcus Johansson had a superb game. The sophomore center, playing with Troy Brouwer on one of his wings, used his speed very well throughout the game. The Caps’ third goal was a direct result of his strength on the puck, and he was creating with Ovechkin as well. And then, he got hurt at the end in garbage time. Montreal typical.
Michal Neuvirth was very good tonight. Having not played in three weeks, the young goaltender made some key saves throughout the game, particularly on the penalty kill, and was one of the main reasons the Caps came out of La Belle Province with a win. But NO, he is not the top goaltender.
This was a huge win for the Capitals – one that they really needed to have. After laying such a huge egg against the Islanders at home on Tuesday, coming into the Bell Centre and toying with the Canadiens is not an easy thing to do, no matter how poorly they are playing. Now it’s time for four more big road points.
Washington will have Thursday off in all likelihood before their game in Raleigh on Friday night.
Harry Hawkings is a college student who covers the Caps for RtR. Follow him on Twitter here for updates.