MONTREAL – The puck keeps going in for Alex Ovechkin.
The league’s co-leader in goals finished a spectacular play with a tricky shot that fooled Montreal goalie Carey Price on Tuesday as the Washington Capitals downed the Canadiens 3-2 to extend their winning run to five games.
The Capitals are a perfect 5-0-0 in April and Ovechkin has eight goals in that span. The centre on his line, Nicklas Backstrom, picked up two assists and has 11 points, all helpers, in the same five games.
Ovechkin said getting the win was bigger than the goal he scored to tie the game 1-1 at the 7:50 mark of the second. It helped the Capitals (21-17-2) stay two points ahead of Winnipeg atop the Southeast Division, with a game in hand.
“It’s big two points for us right now,” said the two-time Hart Trophy winner, whose level of play looks to be back near its peak after dipping the last two seasons. “We beat a team in front of us (in the standings).
“We know we can play against good teams. If we play hard and play our system it gives us results.”
Eric Fehr and Jack Hillen also scored for Washington, which is 6-0-1 in its last seven.
Lars Eller scored twice for Montreal (25-9-5), which ended a two-game winning run.
Ovechkin’s 26th of the season left him tied for the league lead with Steven Stamkos, who got the game-winner late in Tampa Bay’s 3-2 win over Ottawa.
When told that Stamkos had scored, Ovechkin said “good for him.”
Washington killed off a slashing penalty against Ovechkin to start the second period, but then the 27-year-old put on a show to tie the game.
He took the puck at the right point, slipped past Michael Ryder into the high slot and fired a medium-speed shot that dipped on Price.
“I beat Ryder and I knew there was lots of traffic in front,” Ovechkin said. “The shot wasn’t that hard but it went in, so that’s good.”
It was Montreal’s first loss to a Southeast team (11-1-0) in 2013, but the Capitals always play well at the Bell Centre, where they are 6-0-1 in their last seven visits.
“We got pucks at the net but they did a good job of blocking the lanes, and when they scored, it seemed like the puck found ways to go behind Price,” said Montreal coach Michel Therrien.
The Capitals came out looking hungry and owned the puck in the first six minutes of the opening period, firing the first nine shots on goal to force Price into a number of big saves.
Montreal turned the tables by getting the next five shots and struck first as Alex Galchenyuk, who assisted on both goals, led a rush that saw Brandon Prust feed Eller in front to beat Michal Neuvirth at 15:44.
Less than two minutes after Ovechkin’s goal, a long period of fourth-line pressure ended with Fehr being credited with poking the puck in as Hillen’s shot went up in the air off Price and landed behind him in the crease at 9:36.
“You always lose momentum when that happens,” said Montreal captain Brian Gionta. “But I thought we responded well after that.
“But when you have a lapse like that, it’s tough to chase a team that’s hot.”
That Fehr goal was originally credited to Hillen, but he made up for that 9:36 into the third when his point shot went off a body in front and beat Price.
The officials let a few would-be obstruction fouls go and that had the 21,273 in the seats booing for much of the third period as the home side tried to mount a comeback.
It changed to cheers as Eller got his second of the night with 3:22 left to play as he tipped Nathan Beaulieu’s point shot.
“We knew they were going to make a push, which they did,” said Capitals coach Adam Oates. “The building gets electric and it gets hard to play here. It’s great for the guys to fight through that and experience that because it’s going to help down the road.”
The Canadiens ended a three-game homestand and now are on the road Thursday in Buffalo and Saturday night in Toronto.
Washington returns home for three games.
Notes: Rene Bourque returned to the Montreal lineup after missing 21 games with a concussion. That bumped Ryan White to the press box. … Nathan Beaulieu was recalled from AHL Hamilton to fill in for Alexei Emelin, out for the season with torn left knee ACL. … Joel Ward sat out for Washington after taking a shot in the foot Saturday against Tampa Bay.