MONTREAL – A floater goal by Dennis Wideman and an unstoppable blast by Alexander Semin were all the talk after the Washington Capitals picked up yet another shutout win in Montreal on Saturday.
Wideman hung his head after he got the opening goal in Washington’s 3-0 victory at 8:10 of the first period. After Brooks Laich won a draw, Wideman only got a piece of a bouncing puck that went over the defence and knuckled down past helpless goalie Peter Budaj.
The veteran defenceman just leaned forward at the blue-line pondering his good fortune.
“It was kind of embarrassing,” Wideman said. “I don’t know what to do when something like that happens.
“It was up on end and I just swung at it hoping for the best and I guess the best happened. It went up and over everyone and no one picked it up. And it just dropped in. It was pretty high. It was a foot or two over (Max) Pacioretty’s head.”
At 11:57 of the third frame, Semin got the Capitals’ second penalty shot of the game and beat Budaj with a spectacular shot from close range.
Caps’ star Alex Ovechkin called Wideman’s effort a ‘”flukey shot, and especially his reaction after that was kind of funny.
“But Sasha’s goal, I don’t think any goalie can stop that. He’s maybe one and half metres from the net (takes) and a slapshot top shelf.”
Matt Hendricks scored in a more conventional manner for the Capitals (27-20-4), who got a 30-save shutout from Tomas Vokoun.
Washington has picked up shutouts in its last three visits to Montreal, each time with a different goalie. Last March, it was Braden Holtby in a 2-0 victory, while Michal Neuvirth picked up a 3-0 win on Jan. 18.
It was the first time a visiting team had two penalty shots in a game in Montreal. Troy Brouwer was awarded one at 9:14 of the middle period after Budaj threw his stick in a bid to knock the puck away. But the Canadiens backup goalie stuffed Brouwer’s attempt to score between the pads.
Semin got his shot after he had his stick slashed from behind by Tomas Kaberle.
Peter Budaj made 20 saves for Montreal (19-24-9), which is 0-3-0 since the all-star break and is in the NHL Eastern Conference cellar.
It was Ovechkin’s first game after serving a three-game suspension for boarding Pittsburgh’s Zbynek Michalek but he had an uneventful afternoon with 19:57 of ice time, one shot and no points. Ovechkin took some heat last week for opting not to play in the all-star game in Ottawa.
But he got a laugh from the crowd in the first period when, after battling Andrei Kostitsyn for a puck, saw a man open breaking for the Montreal net and fed him a perfect pass, except the open man was Canadiens defenceman Josh Gorges.
“It was a pretty funny moment,” he said. “I was laughing on the bench because I can shoot the puck. I won the battle. I thought it was Semin. I went ‘oh my god.’ It was funny. Maybe if I didn’t miss three games I would have shot it.”
He was happy to shake off some rust, however.
“Today my game was not that good,” he said. “Three games is a lot. Ten days without a game. It’s kind of a long time. But I got lots of (ice time). I feel the energy. It’s good.”
It was gloomier among the Canadiens, whose chances of reaching the playoffs grow more remote with each loss.
“You fight yourself mentally,” Gorges said of their losing season. “You’re telling yourself to do so much and you accomplish nothing.
“Your mind’s going 100 miles and hour and your feet aren’t moving. You’re overthinking everything. The problem is we’re very tense, very tight. We’re not just playing hockey. We’re trying to do too much. It’s mentally exhausting when you play like that.”
There were plenty of kids at the rare matinee game at the Bell Centre but they were mostly quiet due to the lack of action.
But the crowd had fun cheering each time the puck went to Montreal’s Scott Gomez, the Canadiens’ highest paid player at US$7.3 million per season who has not scored since Feb. 5, 2011, against the New York Rangers. They may have been mocking, but they also sounded like they really wanted Gomez to score.
A group of fans is urging the crowd to celebrate Gomez’s goal “anniversary” by wearing party costumes and singing “Happy Birthday” when the Canadiens play a second afternoon game Sunday against the Winnipeg Jets.
Gomez was not made available to the media after the game, but Gorges saw the crowd’s actions in a positive light.
“It almost sounds like encouragement,” he said. “It doesn’t sound like booing.
“I hope it’s encouragement and that they want to see him get that goal and move forward. I hope they’re trying to push him to get the goal he wants and that we want him to get.”
The Capitals are 11-2-2 in their last 15 regular season meetings with Montreal and are 5-0-1 in the last six trips to the Bell Centre.
Notes: The Canadiens inserted defenceman Chris Campoli into the lineup after sitting out three games. Yannick Weber was scratched. Mike Blunden, injured last game, didn’t dress. … Caps forward Dmitry Orlov shed blood after taking a puck in the face in the first period, but was quickly back in the game after being treated. … Keith Aucoin, called up Thursday from Hershey, was in the Caps’ lineup. Jay Beagle and John Erskine didn’t play.