WASHINGTON – The Montreal Canadiens were leading by a goal late in the game, ready to pull off a road upset of the Washington Capitals.
Then Maxim Lapierre gets sent off for hooking with 1:52 left. The Capitals pull their goaltender for the final minute. Montreal netminder Carey Price loses his stick. And then Canadiens couldn’t clear the zone. They were under siege with no stoppage in sight. Talk about a frenzied two-minute drill.
“It felt like we were in our own end for 10 minutes,” Price said after Montreal’s 3-2 victory Friday night. “There was a lot of red out there. Especially when I lost my stick. I’ve got six players against four with no stick. That makes it pretty tough.”
Somehow Price and the Canadiens held on. The closest Washington came to tying it was when Mike Green rattled the right post in the final seconds. Montreal won for only the third time in nine road games, despite getting outshot 27-8 over the last two periods.
“The last 3½ minutes were kind of hectic,” Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said. “But up to that point I felt we were managing the game well.”
Travis Moen and Tomas Plekanec scored in a three-minute span early in the second period, and Michael Cammalleri added a power-play goal in the third for the Canadiens. Price finished with 32 saves.
Eric Fehr and Brendan Morrison scored for the Capitals, and Michal Neuvirth made 19 saves in his season debut. Neuvirth got the call because veteran Jose Theodore is dealing with personal issues and youngster Semyon Varlamov got a day off in the first half of a back-to-back.
“It’s easy to rip on your players when you lose to a team that’s below you in the standings,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said, “but I thought Montreal played a strong game. The biggest thing was I didn’t think we were ready at the start of the game. We were flat. … We went out there and thought it was going to be an easy win.”
After the game, it was again time to count the injuries between two teams already dealing with too many ailing bodies. Montreal centre Scott Gomez sustained a lower body injury, and Moen had an undisclosed injury. Martin said he had no word yet on either player, and that both would be evaluated Saturday.
For the Capitals, Tom Poti left early with an upper body injury, adding his name to a list that includes Alexander Semin (wrist), Mike Knuble (broken finger), Boyd Gordon (back), Milan Jurcina (lower body), Quintin Laing (broken jaw) and Shaone Morrisonn (upper body).
Washington took a first-period lead when Fehr beat Price glove-side through traffic from the left circle, but the Canadiens came back with a pair of goals not long after the first intermission.
Moen tied it when he redirected Roman Hamrlik’s drive from the blue line, and Plekanec made it 2-1 with a close-range shot that appeared to hit Morrison’s hand and then trickled through Neuvirth’s legs. Montreal recorded only four shots in the second period, but two found the net.
The Canadiens also didn’t have a power play in the first two periods – in fact, they have not drawn more than four advantages in their last 12 games – but they capitalized in the third after Brooks Laich went off for tripping. Cammalleri, who had scored one goal in his previous six games, netted his ninth of the season during the man advantage with 7:31 remaining to put Montreal ahead 3-1.
Then Morrison scored with 2:32 remaining to pull Washington within a goal, setting up the furious finish.
“We turned it on at the end,” Morrison said. “But it was too little, too late.”
NOTES: D Ryan O’Byrne returned for the Canadiens after missing 19 games with a lower body injury, and RW Georges Laraque was back after sitting out 13 games with an upper body injury. … Washington D John Carlson made his NHL debut. The 27th overall pick in the 2008 draft, the 19-year-old Carlson is the youngest Capitals player to make his debut since Semin in the 2003-04 season.