MONTREAL – Alexander Ovechkin had a very interested observer in the stands, and he didn’t disappoint.
Eric Fehr’s second of the game tied it late and Nicklas Backstrom scored the shootout winner for Washington as the Capitals came back after blowing a two-goal lead Saturday to down the Montreal Canadiens 4-3.
Ovechkin had a goal, an assist and eight of the Capitals (15-5-6) season-low 23 shots on goal in an electrifying performance with Russian Olympic general manager Vladislav Tretiak watching from the seats.
“When they showed Tretiak, you could see that Alex was paying pretty close attention to the screen,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I think Alex is pretty well on the team, but I think he wanted to go out there and do a good job for him.”
Ovechkin said he knew Tretiak would be at the game but was still impressed when his face was shown on the video screen, triggering a big ovation from the Montreal fans.
“It was pretty cool when I saw him in the stands,” said Ovechkin, who was seen giving Tretiak a big hug outside the Capitals dressing room after the game.
Ovechkin’s fingerprints were all over this game.
He scored on a laser beam of a one-timer from the top of the circle in the first period and created a rebound for Fehr’s tying goal at 19:48 of the third with another. But it was in the second that he was at his dazzling best.
He streaked in alone on a breakaway in the early moments, and after a series of dekes was stopped by Carey Price with a great pad save. Midway through the period he turned Marc-Andre Bergeron inside out before letting go of a dangerous wrister. Price stopped the shot, and then made a tremendous save off Jay Beagle on the rebound to maintain Montreal’s 2-1 deficit.
“If I score on that breakaway and on that chance where I beat Bergeron, maybe it’s a different game,” Ovechkin said. “But I didn’t score, Price gave them a big boost and they scored two goals.”
Travis Moen, Jaroslav Spacek and Tomas Plekanec scored for the Canadiens, (12-12-2), who dropped their second shootout in a row after winning their first eight games that went past regulation.
“For 59 minutes and 40 seconds, we had a great effort,” said Habs coach Jacques Martin. “It’s disappointing to lose a point.”
Montreal opened the door for Fehr’s tying goal when Paul Mara was whistled for high-sticking with 16 seconds to play in regulation, and it took only four seconds for the Caps’ power play to connect with the goalie pulled at the other end.
“We have to stay out of the penalty box and stop taking stupid penalties,” defenceman Roman Hamrlik said. “When we have the lead, we have to play tough, but not stupid.”
Despite the low shot total, Price made a number of big saves off quality scoring chances to help the Habs get a point, while Semyon Varlamov made 21 saves for the Caps.
Montreal had gone three games without a power-play goal, but scored twice with the man advantage to get back in the hockey game.
Down 2-0 to start the second, Spacek scored on a slapshot from the point at 5:40 in his first game back after missing two with a foot injury.
Plekanec got his sixth of the year at 13:50, blocking a Hamrlik point shot in front and then sliding a backhander past Varlamov to tie the game 2-2.
Moen put Montreal ahead 3-2 at 5:34 on another power play, re-directing a Bergeron wrist shot past Varlamov just after a two-man advantage had ended.
That set the stage for Fehr’s heroics in the dying seconds of regulation.
“We don’t like losing, and especially with the way we played in the last couple of periods we wanted to fight back,” Fehr said. “We have a lot of guys on our team that don’t like to lose and you can definitely see that, especially in the last periods of games.”
The Capitals were efficient in jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, scoring on half of their four shots on goal.
Fehr tipped a Karl Alzner wrist shot from the point past Price at 8:47 of the first for his fifth of the year.
Just over a minute later, Ovechkin ripped his 18th of the year at 9:59 on a shot that left no chance for Price.
Notes: D Milan Jurcina returned to the Caps lineup after missing seven games with a lower body injury. Washington was still without Mike Knuble (finger), Boyd Gordon (back), Alexander Semin (wrist), Quintin Laing (jaw), Shaone Morrisonn (upper body) and Tom Poti (upper body). . . Montreal was missing Andrei Markov (ankle), Scott Gomez (lower body), Brian Gionta (foot), Hal Gill (foot), Andrei Kostitsyn (lower body), Georges Laraque (suspension), Matt D’Agostini (knee) and Benoit Pouliot (wrist). . . The Capitals have held the lead in the second period or later in every game they’ve played. . . Canadian Olympic GM Steve Yzerman was also in attendance.