WASHINGTON — The Canadiens backed up a strong performance by Carey Price with a four-goal explosion in the second period and defeated the Washington Capitals 5-2 Friday at Capital One Arena.
With the win over the team with the best record in the NHL, the Canadiens have earned at least one point in eight of their last nine games (7-1-1).
Price has had his problems with Washington but he made 25 saves to boost his career record against the Capitals to 8-14-5.
The floodgates opened for the Canadiens after a strong forecheck led to the first Montreal goal at 6:33 of the second period. Pressure from Shea Weber and Ben Chiarot forced T.J. Oshie into a turnover as he tried to exit the Washington zone. Brendan Gallagher picked up the loose puck and Tomas Tatar, who was filling in for a banged-up Jonathan Drouin, found Phillip Danault alone in front, and he showed patience as he faked a shot and then lifted a backhander over rookie goaltender Ilya Samsonov’s glove.
Shea Weber beat the 22-year-old goaltender with a shot from the left faceoff circle at 9:16 and Samsonov looked weak when Jordan Weal beat him on a backhander to the far post at 11:42. Weal was returning to the lineup after four games as a healthy scratch.
The Canadiens enjoyed the first power play of the game and, while they didn’t score, they gained momentum and made it 4-0 seconds after Garnet Hathaway retuned to the ice. Rookie Nick Suzuki was credited with the goal when his attempt to set up Gallagher in front caromed off a defender.
It appears the Canadiens see an inordinate number of backup goaltenders, but Samsonov is already pencilled in as the No. 1 next season because cap-challenged Washington can’t afford to re-sign Braden Holtby, who will be an unrestricted free agent in July.
Samsonov, who had a 5-0-1 record coming into the game, was tough to beat in the first period. The Canadiens had the better of the play, outshooting the Capitals 15-8 on the strength of a flurry when they fired five shots on Samsonov in the final minute. Washington’s best scoring chance came midway thorough the period when Evgeny Kuznetsov hit a post.
The Canadiens did a good job of containing Alex Ovechkin, but he scored a power-play goal in the third period to end Price’s shutout bid. Ovechkin has made life difficult for Price and the Canadiens throughout his career. He has 32 goals and 53 points in 49 games against Montreal. He has scored 21 of those goals in 26 games against Price.
Evgeny Kuznetsov scored on a breakaway with less than five minutes to play, and the Capitals pulled their goalie. Price made made a save on Richard Panik to preserve the two-goal lead and Tatar scored an empty-netter to cap a four-point night.
Drouin was blindsided by Ovechkin early in the second period. He left the ice on his own but went immediately to the dressing room. He missed the rest of the period but returned for the third.