Eric Fehr hammers home the 'layup'
How it happened: Mikhail Grabovski scored the tying goal with just over five minutes left in the third period to send the Capitals and Canadiens to overtime where a shootout would be needed. Braden Holtby made the big stop after a Grabovski shootout goal to give the Caps the win. Holtby managed well in an emergency situation as Michal Neuvirth – the game’s starter as originally planned – went down with a lower body injury during warmups. Holtby saved 35 shots and allowed just two goals, and kept the Capitals in it long enough to beat Peter Budaj and the Canadiens’ defensive front, the stingiest in the NHL.
What it means: The win snaps a four-game losing streak for the Capitals who improve to 13-11-2 on the season. They sit second in the Metropolitan Division behind the Pittsburgh Penguins who also won on Friday, taking care of the Lightning 3-0.
Late life: The Caps trailed for over 53 minutes in the game before Grabovski’s goal to tie it at 2-2 at the 14:28 mark in the third. A missed shot by Troy Brouwer saw the puck ricochet wide in the Habs’ zone before Eric Fehr found Grabovski coming down the middle of the ice. Fehr returned the favor for Grabovski’s assist earlier with a perfect feed to Grabo. The veteran then snapped a shot past the stick of Budaj.
Sluggish start: The Capitals came out with more speed and energy than the Canadiens in the games’ opening minutes, but quickly lost control and finished the period struggling to even get shots on goal. All four of the Caps’ first period shots came before the 5:00 mark and two overlapping power plays couldn’t even do the trick. Montreal saw both Brian Gionta (high sticking) and Ryan White (tripping) go to the box and within that nearly four-minute man advantage the Caps managed to go 3:25 without testing Budaj with a puck to the net. The first period also included Briere’s goal which came after a series of rebounds against Holtby.
Giving back: The second period brought more life from the Caps who struck with the equalizer in the second period at the 5:17 mark. Eric Fehr found himself in the right place at the right time, crashing the net as Budaj skated behind it to look for a loose puck. Budaj didn’t see Mikhail Grabovski who was on the boards and ready to feed Fehr for the assist. Unfortunately for the Caps, however, they coughed up the lead just over a minute later on a 3-on-1 breakaway. Brian Gionta fired a shot that was deflected right to Plekanec who was to Holtby’s left, skating towards the post. He got a stick on it and helped the Habs get right back on top at 2-1.
Factoids: Alex Ovechkin has now gone without a point in only seven games this season. Tonight was the second of three season matchups between the teams as they’ll face off one more time in Montreal on Jan. 25. Grabovski now has 21 points (6 goals, 15 assists) in 31 games against his former team. Caps went 0 for 4 on the power play and are now four for their last 31 with the man advantage.
Alex Ovechkin - "It's huge win for us right now. Maybe it was not our best game, but we spend lots of time in the offensive zone. Of course we make a couple mistakes, but right now, it's two points and we'll take it."
Adam Oates - "I still think that we have some guys that are regarded as flashy players and it's hard to play that way every night. There's nights that you can score two early and that opens the team up because that's human nature and your skills can show. But for me, no matter who it is, you have to be willing to play a certain style and over the course of the game your skill set will show itself."
Look ahead: The Capitals head up to New York to play the Islanders in less than 24 hours, a 7 p.m. start on CSN+. It’s a short trip as the following two games are home, the first a Tuesday night battle against the Carolina Hurricanes at the Verizon Center.