Entering Tuesday night's NHL action, no Eastern Conference team had fewer home losses than the Montreal Canadiens, who were set to play host to the Washington Capitals, a team they had dismissed from the playoffs less than a year ago. Exiting Tuesday night's NHL action, that's no longer the case, as the Capitals - who were led on this night by a rookie center and a rookie goaltender - left with two points, perhaps some demons exorcised, and a nine-game win streak. Not a bad way to kick off a brutal road swing.
Ten more notes on the game:
- A mere 1:06 into the game, Marcus Johansson extended his point streak to four games when he deposited a lucky bounce off the boards that caught Carey Price below the goal line. Of note, Braden Holtby picked up his first career assist (no doubt the first of many) on the play, and he now has as many power-play helpers as Nicklas Backstrom has in his last 16 games. Oof.
- Just 20 seconds later, Holtby gave one back to the Habs, as his attempt to play a puck up the boards was picked off by Travis Moen and put into the Caps' net before Holtby could get back in position. Much has been made of Holtby's puck-handling, and rightly so, but Bruce Boudreau foreshadowed tonight's mistake on Friday night when he referred to his young netminder as "a little too brave" with the puck. This is what he meant.
- Not a full minute after that (and after a Matt Bradley/Paul Mara fight), Matt Hendricks nearly converted a goal-mouth scramble that went to video review after a "no goal" ruling on the ice. Everyone in the arena knew the puck had crossed the line. Everyone watching on TV knew the puck crossed the line. Everyone in Toronto reviewing the play knew the puck crossed the line. But since there was no replay that showed the puck under Price and over the line prior to the whistle blowing (or when the whistle was intended to be blown), logic and physics gave way to upholding the ruling on the ice.
- On November 19, 2005, Brooks Laich scored his first career NHL goal in Montreal. On Tuesday night, he scored his 100th in the same building on a beautiful inside-out-move that allowed him to get around Hal Gill, lower his shoulder and beat Price. Laich now has 16 goals on the season, and you've gotta think that a return to the 20-goal plateau is a real possibility for the free-agent-to-be. Oh, and let's not forget to credit Karl Alzner for the pretty pass to spring Laich.
- With the game tied at two, Alex Ovechkin beat P.K. Subban to a puck along the end boards (after Subban had actually played him quite well) and fed Johansson for the game-winning goal. It was yet another point-while-tied-or-trailing for Johansson, and cemented what was really something of a coming out party for the young Swede. Two goals, four shots on goal and solid defense all night for MoJo.
- Whether or not you're scoring, you can't be taking offensive zone penalties or penalties when your team's up a goal with just over five minutes left. Marco Sturm is not scoring, and did both. His gorgeous saucer pass to Mike Knuble for the insurance goal moments after the second of those infractions expired is hardly mitigating.
- Back to Holtby, after a shaky start (I'll admit to questioning whether or not he'd make it through the night after seeing a couple of big rebounds), the reigning First Star of the Week settled down and ended the night with 24 saves. Great battlin', B - you've earned a night off (right, Bruce?).
- The power play ended the night 2-for-5, thanks to MoJo's fluke goal and Knuble converting 11 seconds into a maximum 18-second advantage, but the unit failed to score on a 1:25 five-on-three advantage, and never got anything going on set power-plays.
- The pairing of Dennis Wideman and Jeff Schultz was on for both Montreal goals, while the duo of Alzner and John Carlson (who fired six shots on goal) was on for both even-strength Caps tallies. In other D news, Scott Hannan blocked six shots on goal and Tyler Sloan was Tyler Sloan.
- Seeing the Caps throw 41 shots on the Habs might have seemed like something of a flashback for some, but the fact that they only had 11 shots blocked was completely different from last year's playoff frustration. On Tuesday night, the Caps got pucks to the net, and if it wasn't for Carey Price, the game wouldn't have been close. It's nice to run into a hot goalie and still win, eh?
And so it's off to Detroit with a nice win streak and all that goes with it - the confidence, the increasing comfort, and, most importantly, the points. With eleven games left in the regular season (and health aside), things are coming together rather nicely.