The Montréal Canadiens returned to home ice after a lengthy road trip and looked to win their fourth game in a row. They faced off against the Washington Capitals who were looking for their sixth straight win.
Capitals head coach Barry Trotz honoured former Canadien Lars Eller by putting him on the ice to start the game. Although Eller won the game's opening faceoff, the Habs jumped on the Caps right away. Nathan Beaulieu joined Max Pacioretty and Phillip Danault on a three-on-two and created a great chance, but Pacioretty mistakenly tried to pass instead of shoot.
Washington would get four shots in a row after that rush as they applied pressure to Montréal in its own zone. The Habs got the next few shot attempts before the next whistle, doing a good job in creating traffic in front.
Alex Ovechkin and Brett Connolly found themselves on a quick two-on-one rush, but Shea Weber was very effective in blocking the attempted pass with the blade of his stick to neutralize the Capitals forwards.
A low shot by Ovechkin later in the frame created a rebound off of Carey Price's left pad, and Nicklas Backstrom, stationed right in front, took advantage to put the puck in the net for the game's first goal.
The Canadiens responded admirably, having a few moments of good, sustained pressure in Washington's zone. They were unable to take advantage, whether as a result of good saves by Holtby or the puck narrowly deflecting wide of the net.
The second period was mostly in the Capitals' favour early on, as they were able to get six shots to hit the net before the Canadiens got their next one. The Habs were able to sustain some pressure, though few of their shot attempts were able to make their way onto target.
Bobby Farnham received a great chance for the Canadiens as he came out of the penalty box, but his one-time shot from Pacioretty's pass glanced Holtby on the far side as the Capitals goaltender slid across his crease, narrowly making the save with his right foot.
The Canadiens got another quality chance in the last 10 seconds of the period, when Plekanec protected the puck well before throwing it into the crowd in front of the net. Holtby was once again sharp, making the save down low.
Montréal may have had some effects of fatigue from their long road trip showing in the second, as the Capitals badly outshot the Canadiens 17-8 in the period.
The Habs earned two power-play opportunities in the third period. Their execution was lacking, and it was not until 1:30 into the team's third power-play that they registered their first official shot from a Plekanec backhand.
Some strong work in front of the net by the Canadiens would pay off, as Plekanec took advantage of Brooks Orpik accidentally knocking down his goaltender to tie the game 1-1. The Habs winger scored the goal a second before the penalty expired.
Their celebrations would be short-lived, as Evgeny Kuznetsov deke Jeff Petry just moments later after taking a bouncing puck away from Pacioretty and scoring short-side to give the Capitals back their lead.
Kuznetsov would once again participate in a goal for Washington, as he stole the puck from Price who was trying to play it to his defence. He sent the pass to Connolly who put it past Price to extend the Capitals' lead to two.
Alexei Emelin attempted to show off some offensive abilities in a bid to pull his team back into it, with an attempted toe drag. He lost the puck on the move, but it went to Plekanec, who passed it to Lehkonen. The latter shot the puck over the net and out of play, and the Habs best chance at a second marker went for nought.
It was an historic night for Ovechkin, as he tied Canadiens legend Maurice Richard in career goals with 544 to take the game out of Montréal's hands and secure the 4-1 win.
- The Capitals won 4-1 in a game in which they took better advantage of their puck possession time than the Canadiens. The Montréal defence seemed to show exhaustion as the game went on, and it was most obvious in Washington's three goals in a span of 8:24. Outshot 39-23, the Canadiens had difficulty hitting the target all night long.
- Price's numbers have not been great during this last little while. Since December 1, he has a .904 save percentage and a 2.64 goals-against average. Even though the Habs have great possession numbers in that span, it looks like they will need to work on reducing their opponents' scoring chances from in close. Three of the Capitals goals came from between the faceoff dots.
- The Canadiens' power play has been effective recently, especially in their last four games before this contest, in which they scored at a 33.3% success rate. It almost seemed that it would not amount to much against the Capitals, as it took almost three power-plays to get their first shot. Plekanec scored just in the nick of time with about a second left on the third power-play to keep it hot. It’s not pretty, but when the puck in the zone they have the players to take advantage, and currently hold a top-10 position in the NHL in power-play efficiency.