Higgins ended a 16-game goalless drought with two goals, but left in the third period of a 5-3 NHL victory Tuesday night over the slumping Washington Capitals with an “upper body” injury. Coach Guy Carbonneau said more would be known about the injury when Higgins visits a doctor on Wednesday. Michael Ryder also scored a pair, including the game-winner while short-handed, and centre Saku Koivu had three assists.
“It was good to see Higgins get some goals and get some confidence back,” said Carbonneau. “That line was extraordinary.
“They were skating and moving the puck well. That was the line we saw before Christmas.”
Garth Murray added his first of the season and rookie Duncan Milroy picked up his first NHL point on an empty-net goal with 58 seconds to play.
The win combined with losses by Carolina and Toronto put Montreal into seventh place in the Eastern Conference.
It was a second straight win for Montreal (31-25-6) following a six-game losing run and a second win in a row for rookie Jaroslav Halak, called up Friday to replace injured No. 1 goalie Cristobal Huet.
Carbonneau said Halak will be back in the net Thursday in Nashville, when the Canadiens begin a stretch with seven of eight games on the road.
Ryder, who had scored once in 11 games, now has three in the last two.
“Our team has injuries now and we know that for us to win, our line needs to score,” said Ryder. “It’s definitely good to start scoring. Our line seems to have the chemistry now that we had earlier in the season.”
Higgins left the game after putting a hit on Washington defenceman John Erskine five minutes into the third period and did not return.
Jamie Heward and Brian Sutherby scored in a 30-second span early in the second frame for Washington (23-28-9), while Alexander Semin added his 32nd of the season on a power play.
The Capitals have not won in four games and are 4-11-2 in their last 17.
It was another quiet night for Caps’ star winger Alexander Ovechkin, who was held without a point and has just one goal and one assist in his last eight games.
“I feel great, I just can’t score goals,” said Ovechkin, who was limited to 18:47 of ice time – more than two minutes below his average – partly because the Capitals took eight minor penalties.
“I’m not on PK, so I sit there,” he said. “It’s hard to play sitting on the bench.”
The Capitals, with Brent Johnson replacing injured No. 1 goaltender Olaf Kolzig, took six minors and surrendered three power play goals in the first period.
Higgins was at the side of the net to bank a shot in off Johnson at 7:33. Ryder drilled a shot into the far corner from the left circle at 14:48 and Higgins redirected a Koivu pass at 15:37.
Heward’s point shot went in off Brian Sutherby’s body at 2:06 of the middle period and then the veteran defenceman scored when his long shot was accidentally tipped past Halak by Montreal centre Maxim Lapierre.
Ryder turned Semin inside out with a deft move and scored the game-winner at 16:01. It was Montreal’s league-leading 16th short-handed marker of the season and beat the team record of 15 set in 1995-96.
“That goal killed us,” said Caps coach Glen Hanlon.
Then it was Semin’s turn to fly past Sheldon Souray and go in alone to score on a power play with 34 seconds left in the period. Heward got his third point of the game with an assist.
Notes – Kolzig (knee) missed a third game, while Kris Beech, Ben Clymer and Steve Eminger were healthy scratches for Washington. . . . Montreal was without RW Alex Kovalev (elbow), G Cristobal Huet (hamstring) D Craig Rivet (pneumonia) and centre Steve Begin (broken foot).