|Marcus Johansson had another excellent game Tuesday.|
The Capitals got off to a good start, as John Carlson used a nifty move early to draw Tomas Plekanec into a hooking call at the 46 second mark. The Capital power play got off to a bad start with an early clear by the Habs, but a long dump in bounced off the glass and eluded Carey Price behind the net. The puck ended up right in front for Marcus Johansson, who buried it into the empty net for a 1-0 lead at 1:06. But just 20 seconds later, Braden Holtby had his own miscue behind the net, and Travis Moen found a hole on a recovering Braden Holtby to equalize for the Canadiens. After a fight between Paul Mara and Matt Bradley, Matt Hendricks had a great chance in front that was initially ruled no goal by the referee after the puck stopped on the goal line. After a lengthy video review, the call stood, and the Canadiens began an attack of their own, and Holtby had to make two great saves to keep the game tied. Washington then came back at Montreal, but Price made some good saves of his own to keep Washington from drawing ahead. After a short period of back and forth, the Canadiens were awarded their first power play when Marco Sturm was sent off for holding at 10:20. The Habs power play got some excellent puck movement early, but the Caps were able to kill it off despite some close calls. Soon after the expiration of the penalty, Brooks Laich burned Hal Gill down the wing and scored on a beautiful power move to the cage at. But the Canadiens came right back with a dominant shift, putting Washington on their heels again and forcing Holtby to make some more good saves. The Canadiens continued their solid attacking play, and drew a second penalty on Tyler Sloan, this time for hooking at 16:42. Washington was able to kill off the first minute of the penalty successfully, and then got a break when Roman Hamrlik was given the gate for interference at 18:07. Eric Fehr then drew another penalty on Paul Mara driving to the net at 18:17, setting up a 5-on-3 advantage for Washington. Despite some excellent chances, however, Carey Price was up to the task with several great saves in close to keep the Montreal deficit at one, and the period ended with the Capitals ahead 2-1.
On the power play to open the second period, the Capitals simply had too little time to set anything up, and the remaining penalty time expired without incident. Washington did get some early chances at even strength soon after, but Price made two more dynamite stops on Mike Knuble to keep the Caps from extending their lead. The Canadiens would not remain quiet for long, however, and equalized at 3:30 when Andrei Kostitsyn rifled a wrist shot over Holtby's glove off a nifty pass from Lars Eller. As the period continued, both teams got some solid chances, none better than Marco Sturm in front, but the winger was denied by a brilliant glove save from Price. The Caps kept coming with a strong forecheck shift, but again, Price was there with several great saves to bail out his team and keep the game tied. TheWashington offensive pressure earned them another power play at 11:32, however, when Travis Moen was sent off for holding. On their man advantage, however, the Capitals struggled to get many good opportunities, and lost a good chance to take the lead by only mustering one shot. Washington came right back at even strength with a furious scrum in front, but Price again was absolutely unbelievable to keep the Capitals from breaking the tie, making six or seven remarkable saves. As the period wound down, Washington continued to control play with good chances and zone presence, but Price stood tall, and the middle stanza ended tied 2-2.
The third period opened with some solid Montreal pressure as the Canadiens tried to break the Capitals' momentum early by putting shots on Braden Holtby, but the young goalie was able to keep the game tied. Soon after, matching minors were given to both Mike Knuble and James Wisniewski at 3:08, setting up four on four hockey. Both teams got some opportunities on the 4 on 4, but it was Washington who took advantage after the minors had expired. Following another Montreal scrum in front of the Capitals' goal, Alex Ovechkin collected a loose puck and powered down the wing on PK Subban, dishing to the middle to a waiting Marcus Johansson. Johansson calmly flipped the puck to his backand and roofed it over Price's glove for a 3-2 advantage at 6:43. The Canadiens would not go away, however, continuing to press the Washington defense despite the absence of both Tomas Plekanec and Jeff Halpern to injury. As the period continued to press on, the Montreal kept coming at the Washington defense, getting several shots off, but Holtby was able to keep Washington ahead. The Canadiens got a break, however, when Marco Sturm was sent off for hooking at 14:42 to grant the home side a critical man advantage. It was negated, though, when Lars Eller was sent off for interference just 17 seconds in, sending the game to another four on four situation. Right out of the box, Marco Sturm collected a loose puck at the blue line and skated in alone with Mike Knuble. Sturm then lifted a beautiful saucer pass across to Mike Knuble, who one-timed it past Price for a 4-2 lead at 16:53. Now comfortably in control, the Capitals skated out the last three minutes or so, controlling the puck and keeping it away from the Canadiens. The clock finally ran out, and DC left Montreal with another huge win.
What a game by Marcus Johansson. He started the game on the second line, but by the third period he was back where he belongs while Nicklas Backstrom is out: centering Alex Ovechkin on the top line. One of his goals was a gimme, but the other one, the game-winner, was beautiful: a backhand roof job from in close. His play since the all-star break has been exceptional, and he is only beginning to show the oodles of talent that he has. He's not elite yet, but he has arrived.
Braden Holtby did not look good tonight. Yes, he made some good saves, and yes, the Capitals won, but he struggled with rebound control and got very lucky several times as well. The first goal was completely his fault, as he grossly overplayed the puck behind the net and let it squirt out to Travis Moen on the half wall. Then he compounded the problem by standing smack dab in the middle of the goal instead of hugging his post. Again, it wasn't all bad, but we are starting to see why this kid is a rookie. Michal Neuvirth should start tomorrow.
This was an enormous game for the Capitals, especially being the first half of a back to back set with the Red Wings. Despite an incredible performance from Carey Price that clearly had Washington frustrated early, the Capitals did not deviate from their game plan: get pucks to the middle and get in the Montreal goalie's kitchen. With their winning streak now at nine, the Capitals are the hottest team in hockey and this surge could not have come at a better time. Another great sign: the Capitals did this without Nicklas Backstrom, Jason Arnott, and Mike Green.
Also of note, the Capitals lost right wing Eric Fehr to an upper body injury about halfway through the second period, and he did not return. According to Katie Carrera, he will be re-evaluated tomorrow.
The Capitals will fly to Detroit this evening, where they will face the always fierce Detroit Red Wings tomorrow night. That game is scheduled for 7:30 P.M.