Holtby stops 33 shots as Capitals top Habs
MONTREAL — Braden Holtby has enjoyed a lot of success against the Montreal Canadiens in his young career, a trend that continued Thursday night at the Bell Centre.
The Capitals goalie made 33 saves, stopping numerous high-quality chances and helping Washington to a 3-2 win over Montreal.
Washington extended its winning streak to six games while Holtby won his eighth straight.
“Tonight, we don’t win that hockey game or even get close to that without his performance,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said of Holtby. He was the best player on the ice for both teams. He was outstanding.”
Holtby is 7-0-2 for his career against the Canadiens, who attempted 73 shots.
Right wingers Tom Wilson and T.J. Oshie, with a pair, scored for the Capitals (18-5-1). Left winger Lars Eller and center Brian Flynn connected for the Canadiens (19-5-3).
Goaltender Mike Condon made 16 saves for Montreal.
Oshie’s second of the night broke a 2-2 tie at 8:17 of the third period. Left winger Alex Ovechkin sent the puck along the left wall down to defenseman Karl Alzner at the point. Alzner fired a shot that deflected off Oshie and caught Condon by surprise.
The Capitals took advantage of a Canadiens turnover to get the scoring started. Left winger Brooks Laich picked off Montreal defenseman Nathan Beaulieu’s clearing attempt and fed Wilson inside the left circle. Wilson fired a quick shot to beat Condon at 2:26 of the first period.
Montreal dominated the second period, holding the Capitals to one shot for more than half of the frame. Its persistence paid off with Eller’s seventh of the season tying the game at 1-1 at 12:08.
After a strong shift by the second wave on a Canadiens power play, center Alex Galchenyuk walked along the right wall before skating into the circle for a pass to Eller at the goal line. Eller turned with the puck to face Holtby before poking it through his pads seconds after time expired on the man advantage.
“That was one of our best games of the year, if not the best,” Montreal left winger Max Pacioretty said. “I knew their goalie was good, but wow, that’s a really good performance. We’ve got to find ways to put pucks in and take away his eyes, but you’ve got give him credit. A lot of huge saves at key moments of the game, and it was frustrating not to be able to put some by him.
“He really impressed me tonight. I knew he was a good goalie, but he really impressed me tonight.”
Oshie restored Washington’s lead at 19:16 of the second period.
Center Nicklas Backstrom carried the puck in before dishing off to Oshie in the right circle. The winger’s shot rose up, and with both sides crowding in Condon’s crease unsure where the puck was, it dropped into the net. After review, it was determined the puck hit Condon’s back before falling behind him.
The Canadiens’ penalty kill evened the score at 2:30 of the third period. Shortly after Holtby denied left winger Paul Byron on a breakaway, he sent Flynn into the Capitals’ zone where the center deked the Washington netminder for his third of the season.
It was the first short-handed goal the Capitals allowed this year.
“I was just yelling for it in the middle,” Flynn said. “Pauly heard me and kind of threw it blind. It was right on my tape and I went in, and it just happened quick. I tried to make a quick move, and fortunately he bit on the fake a little bit.”
NOTES: D Karl Alzner appeared in his 400th consecutive game for the Capitals, the third longest iron man streak in franchise history, the eighth longest streak by a defenseman in the NHL since 1943-44 and the sixth longest active consecutive games-played stretch in the NHL. ... Montreal kept the same lineup as Tuesday, leaving LW Daniel Carr and D Greg Pateryn as the healthy scratches. ... Washington scratched RW Stanislav Galiev and C Chris Brown. D Brooks Orpik missed his 10th straight game with a lower-body injury. ... The game was the first of three meetings between the Capitals and Canadiens this season, and Washington’s only visit to the Bell Centre.