WASHINGTON – Carey Price wasn’t thrown off by having to miss morning skate. Brian Gionta wasn’t thrown off by anything.
Gionta scored two second-period goals and scored in a shootout to lead the Montreal Canadiens past the Washington Capitals 3-2 Tuesday night.
Price had 27 saves and stopped all three Capitals attempts in the shootout.
His gear had been stored underneath the team bus and was overlooked when a mechanical problem caused the team to switch buses. It wasn’t located and returned until the team huddled for a meeting at the end of the practice session.
“My equipment went out to the bus lot and it sat outside all night,” Price said. “I got it back this morning in a frozen solid block.”
It wasn’t a welcome rest.
“I really like pre-game skates,” Price said. “I like to get a sweat on, and I was getting a chill on this morning.”
The morning disruption to Price’s routine may have played a part in Washington’s early lead, as Mathieu Perreault sneaked a shot by him 2 1/2 minutes in.
Perreault won the puck in the neutral zone and skated down the left wing looking for a centring opportunity. When that option was not available, Perreault shot from the middle of the circle for his sixth goal of the season. It was the first goal since Dec. 26 for Perreault, who had been recalled Monday from Hershey of the American Hockey League where he had been assigned for the all-star break.
The Capitals took a two-goal lead at the 7:49 mark of the first period on a power-play goal when Mike Green skated in front of the net and found Mike Knuble camped out on the left side of the net, and Knuble slammed home Green’s pass.
“At this time of year, we can’t afford to just be good for 20 minutes,” Perreault said. “It’s got to be 60 minutes. Playoffs are coming up and those are points we need if we want to get a good spot for the playoffs.”
After the second goal, the Canadiens held the upper hand as Montreal outshot Washington in all three regulation periods.
“Our guys just played solid defensively. In the second period, I don’t think they had but about two shots until the five minute mark,” Price said. “We did an excellent job of coming back.”
The Capitals also had six penalties to the Canadiens’ three, although Washington successfully killed all six Montreal power plays to extend a streak of 24 straight penalty kills.
Gionta got a pair of easy chances in the second period, and converted both of them. He put the Canadiens on the scoreboard at the 8:28 mark, keeping the puck on a two-on-one rush and firing a shot past Capitals goaltender Semyon Varlamov.
Gionta tied the game at 2-2 nine minutes later. A drop pass attempt by Washington’s John Carlson turned into a turnover and a breakaway for Gionta, who finished with a wrister for his 18th goal—and second two-goal game—of the season.
“It’s tough in this league to get chances that are that wide open, where you’re not forced or pressured,” Gionta said. “To have that kind of time, it makes all the difference.”
Gionta made the most of his final open look on Montreal’s first shootout attempt. He shot high over Varlamov, who had sprawled out in the save attempt, for the only shootout score.
Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin both had shots hit the post for the Capitals, and Matt Hendricks was also unable to convert.
“In the shootout we had three great looks,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. “But we didn’t get the puck in the spots where we wanted it to get. I don’t know if it’s confidence or Carey Price being that good.”
Notes: Washington honoured Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Dino Ciccarelli before the game and wore the same throwback uniforms they donned for the Winter Classic on Jan. 1 against Pittsburgh. Ciccarelli played for the Capitals for four seasons from 1988-1992. … Capitals F Alexander Semin (groin) missed his 10th consecutive game. … Washington recalled C Jay Beagle from Hershey of the AHL before the game. … Montreal is 6-5 in overtime games this season, and 2-1 in shootouts. … Price now has three wins in eight career games against the Capitals.