The Washington Capitals have toned down their all-out offence this season while tightening up their defence.
While the team is less flashy, the results have been impressive.
Marcus Johansson scored his second goal of the game 6:43 into the third period, Mike Knuble added Washington’s second power-play goal and the Capitals extended their winning streak to nine games with a 4-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night.
Johansson, who also scored a power-play goal 1:06 into the game, took Alexander Ovechkin’s centring pass and put a backhand shot past Carey Price for his 11th goal of the season to give Washington its third and final one-goal lead.
Knuble added an insurance goal with his 17th with 3:07 left in the third. Seven of the Capitals’ wins during the streak have been by one goal.
“If we have a chance to go and score goals we will, but sometimes one mistake can cost a lot,” Ovechkin said. “We’ve talked about it here in the locker room and the most important thing is when you get that lead, you try to protect that lead.”
Elsewhere in the NHL it was: Phoenix 4 Calgary 3; Pittsburgh 5 Ottawa 1; Los Angeles 4 Nashville 2; Carolina 1 Buffalo 0; Boston 3 Columbus 2 (SO); Philadelphia 3 Florida 2; New York Rangers 6 New York Islanders 3; New Jersey 4 Atlanta 2; and San Jose 6 Dallas 3.
At Montreal, Braden Holtby, who was named the NHL’s first star of the week on Monday, stopped 24 shots for his fifth straight win.
“We like being in tight games this year and we find a way to get a goal at the right time,” said Brooks Laich, who scored his 16th goal in the first.
The Capitals, who began a six-game road trip, lead the Southeast Division with 92 points. They remain one point off the Eastern Conference lead behind Philadelphia, which won in Florida.
Andrei Kostitsyn drew Montreal even for the second time with his 17th goal 3:28 into the second. Price made 37 saves and Travis Moen also scored for the Canadiens, who have dropped two of three since a season-best five-game winning streak.
“We could have stole one tonight,” left-wing Michael Cammalleri said. “Carey’s the biggest reason and we had some almost-chances and I just think it was probably indicative of our game overall, just not good enough everywhere and one of those areas was capitalizing on offensive chances.”
Injured left-wing Max Pacioretty visited his teammates in Montreal’s dressing room prior to the game. He also saw the team doctor before returning home.
Pacioretty fractured to his fourth cervical vertebra and sustained a severe concussion one week earlier in a win over Boston at the Bell Centre. The injury was the result of a scary hit by Bruins captain Zdeno Chara that slammed the 22-year-old forward headfirst into a stanchion holding up the glass partition at the end of the visiting team’s bench.
“He’s in good spirits, which always helps,” said Canadiens defenceman James Wisniewski, who took a big hit Tuesday night himself. “The concussion part of it, he says, hasn’t been bothering him at all so that’s really a key part where the fracture of the neck will heal.”
Jason Arnott did not travel with the Capitals because of an undisclosed injury. He is expected to miss at least two more games.
Washington’s Eric Fehr left with an upper-body injury in the first. Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said he was day-to-day and that his condition will be evaluated on Wednesday.
Johansson opened the scoring with a gift power-play goal. Price was caught behind the net on a dump-in by Dennis Wideman which took an odd bounce off the glass. The puck caromed off the side of the net and slid right into the slot, leaving Johansson a wide open net for his 10th goal.
Moen evened it with another stunning strike 20 seconds later. The Montreal forward cut off Holtby’s clearing attempt along the boards and tied it at 1 at 1:26 when he fired a quick shot that got past Holtby as he scrambled back to his crease from behind the net.
Laich restored the Capitals’ one-goal lead with a highlight-reel goal with just under seven minutes to go in the first. He held the puck as he deked in front of Price, reaching around the goalie’s right pad to score his 16th.
Kostitsyn took a drop pass from Lars Eller and snapped a high wrist shot past Holtby to tie it at 2-2.
Montreal lost two players to lower-body injuries in the middle period. Jeff Halpern left after his first shift of the second. Tomas Plekanec was injured later in the period, and neither player returned.
At Calgary, Keith Yandle and Michal Rozsival scored 19 seconds apart early in the third period as Phoenix beat the Flames, who are struggling to stay afloat in the Western Conference playoff race.
At Ottawa, Tyler Kennedy and Jordan Staal each had a goal and an assist as Pittsburgh beat the Senators.
At Nashville, Tenn., Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown each had a goal and an assist, and Los Angeles wrapped up the franchise’s first sweep of a four-game road trip.
At Buffalo, N.Y., Cam Ward stopped 40 shots—including 22 in the first period—to help the Carolina Hurricanes creep closer to playoff contention.
At Columbus, Ohio, Tuukka Rask stopped all three of the Blue Jackets’ attempts and rookie Tyler Seguin scored the only shootout goal and end Boston’s season-worst four-game losing streak.
At Sunrise, Fla., Jeff Carter scored two goals in the second period and Philadelphia beat Florida.
At New York, Bryan McCabe had a goal and an assist, and the Rangers scored three times on a potent power play to win the latest New York-New York matchup.
At Newark, N.J., rookie Jacob Josefson scored early in the third period and the hard-charging New Jersey Devils rallied from a two-goal deficit.
At Dallas, Ryane Clowe scored the tiebreaker in the opening two minutes of the final period, Torrey Mitchell added an insurance goal 1:40 later, and San Jose rallied from a two-goal deficit.