WASHINGTON – Alex Ovechkin got a new leadership role, Tomas Fleischmann flourished following a positional switch, and the Washington Capitals ended a frustrating skid.
Fleischmann had a goal and two assists after moving from left-wing to centre, and Alexander Semin scored twice to lift the Capitals to a 4-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens, snapping a season-high, three-game losing Tuesday night in Ovechkin’s debut as Washington’s captain.
“I have a ‘C’ on my heart, but I’m going to do the same thing,” said Ovechkin, introduced before the game as the team’s 14th captain. He succeeds Chris Clark, who was traded to Columbus on Dec. 28, and becomes the sixth Russian-born player to captain an NHL team. He is the Capitals’ second-youngest captain.
Washington coach Bruce Boudreau and general manager George McPhee made the decision to name Ovechkin captain, but only after the superstar winger told them to talk to his teammates first.
“I talked to (Ovechkin) … three days ago about it,” Boudreau said. “He said, ‘I would accept the responsibility, but only if my teammates want me to. If they’re happy with me as a captain, I’d be glad to be captain.’ So he was already thinking about the team rather than thinking about himself, which is what captains do.”
Ovechkin was held without a point for the eighth time this season. Montreal also shut him out in a Nov. 20 win at Washington. Leading his teammates took priority on this night.
“I have (their) trust,” Ovechkin said. “We have a lot of guys who can speak and talk. But if I have to say something, I say something.”
The Canadiens had no solution for Fleischmann, who looked comfortable as the second-line centre. Washington recorded a season-high 43 shots.
When it was pointed out to Montreal coach Jacques Martin that the Canadiens had shut down Ovechkin, he said: “They’ve got some other ammunition.”
Fleischmann’s line accounted for three of Washington’s goals. Semin ended a six-game goal drought and had his first two-goal game since Dec. 11
“It’s just getting used to it the first five minutes, two shifts and that’s it,” Fleischmann said. “Just play the game.”
Eric Fehr’s goal snapped a second-period tie, preventing Washington from losing four straight in regulation for the first time since Nov. 10-21, 2007.
Josh Gorges and Benoit Pouliot scored for the Canadiens, 7-3-1 in their last 11 road games.
Montreal, the NHL’s top power-play team, scored on only one of three man-up situations. The Capitals, who rank second with the man advantage, scored on one of four power plays.
With the score tied 1-1, Fehr threw a shot toward the net that bounced in off defenceman Hal Gill at 15:45 of the second. Semin scored on a snap shot from the top of the right circle 36 seconds later, making it 3-1 with his 15th goal.
“After a pretty even first period, I thought we lost momentum,” Martin said. “They took the game away in the second period. They were more on the puck, were more aggressive, won more battles.”
The Capitals limited the Canadiens to one shot in the opening 11 minutes and three for the first period, but didn’t take the lead until Fleischmann’s power-play goal 5:14 into the second.
Fleischmann netted his 15th goal shortly after Ovechkin’s shot clanged off the right post. Fleischmann picked off Andrei Markov’s stick-shattering clearing attempt along the right-wing boards, skated parallel to the goal and threaded a shot between two defenders and inside the left post with two seconds remaining on the man advantage.
Gorges tied it with an unintentional assist from Fleischmann. Gorges’ drive from the right point caught Fleischmann’s stick and knuckled past goalie Michal Neuvirth at 14:03 of the second.
Pouliot got Montreal within 3-2 with 8:50 remaining in the game. During a power play, Marc-Andre Bergeron’s pass caromed in off Pouliot, stationed between the circles.
Semin scored his second of the night with 2:02 left, converting Fleischmann’s pass.
NOTES: The Capitals are 7-0-1 when they record at least 40 shots. … Semin has 10 goals in 13 career games against Montreal. … Ovechkin had been an alternate captain since his second NHL season in 2006-07. … C Nicklas Backstrom, who left Saturday’s game at Los Angeles because of a migraine headache, returned to Washington’s starting lineup. … Montreal LW Andrei Kostitsyn missed his second straight game with a lower body injury. His brother, LW Sergei Kostitsyn, sat out a third game because of a lower body injury.