MONTREAL – Cristobal Huet got the shutout, but was quick to share the credit with the Montreal Canadiens checking line.
Huet made 35 saves as the Canadiens built a 3-0 first period lead and then were rarely threatened in a 4-0 victory over the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night.
The two teams meet again in Washington on Thursday night.
“We wanted that game bad,” said Huet after his second shutout of the season and the 15th of his career. “We wanted to come out strong and obviously, we did a good job of skating and outworking them”.
“It’s nice to get the shutout, but our defence and the line that played against (Alexander) Ovechkin played really well.”
Mark Streit scored on a power play, Sergei Kostitsyn got one short-handed and Saku Koivu scored at even strength in the first period as the Canadiens (27-15-8) won a third game in a row and improved to 10-2-2 in their last 14.
Alex Kovalev added a power play goal with 47 seconds left to play. Tomas Plekanec had two assists.
The Capitals (23-23-5) lost for only the second time in six games despite a defence weakened by injuries.
Scoring star Ovechkin was held without a point for the first time in eight games since he signed a US$124 million, 13-year contract. His struggles were largely due to a strong game from Montreal’s checking line of Bryan Smolinski, Steve Begin and Tom Kostopoulos and the top defence pair of Mike Komisarek and Andrei Markov.
“They scored some big goals, but we can’t play like this – making so many mistakes in our zone,” said Ovechkin, who emerged from the game with a cut under his left eye from a first-period hit. “We play them again in our rink and we have to beat them and we have to learn from our mistakes.”
Huet has allowed only 18 goals in nine straight starts since rookie Carey Price was sent to AHL Hamilton on Jan. 8 to rebuild his confidence.
“It’s good to play a lot because you can adjust your game as you play more,” said the 32-year-old, who is slated to start again on Thursday night.
A fast paced, end-to-end first period saw Montreal strike first on the power play, when Streit’s point shot just inside the post beat Brent Johnson at 9:46.
Alexander Semin looked to be injured in a knee-on-knee hit by Kostitsyn, but a moment later, he was back on the ice and drew another penalty with a well-executed dive.
Plekanec blocked a shot during the 5-on-3 and was joined on the breakaway by Kostitsyn, who came out of the penalty box to tap in the pass short-handed at 16:53.
Koivu picked up a turnover in his own zone and raced down the ice to bang in a pass from Begin for a 3-0 lead at 18:25.
Ovechkin thought he had his 40th goal of the season one minute into the second, but his wrist shot rang off the post in a scoreless period. He ended the game with four shots and five hits.
Huet was busy, but had only a handful of tough chances, including a shot from in close by Tom Poti late in the third period.
Coach Bruce Boudreau was not impressed by his club’s effort.
“When you start thinking you’re better than you are, the result is what happened here,” said Boudreau. “We knew they’d come out strong – the first period is their best period – and we knew we had to keep their power play off the ice and we didn’t do it.
“They stuck to their game plan and we didn’t. We gave up some A1 chances.”
Notes: Viktor Kozlov played his 800th career game, while Washington’s John Erskine and Montreal’s Plekanec each played his 200th. . . Caps defenceman Shaone Morrisonn was scratched for a third time in four games with a foot injury. Chris Clark (groin), Brian Pothier (concussion) and Michael Nylander (shoulder) were also missing. . . Montreal sat out Patrice Brisebois and Mathieu Dandenault.