The Capitals extended their lead on the Southeast Division with a five to one win over the Montreal Canadiens after the Winnipeg Jets cut Washington's lead to one point with a shootout loss against the New York Islanders this afternoon. Goals from Ovechkin, Brouwer, and Backstrom gave Washington the victory, the defensive half of the ice shored up by netminder Braden Holtby.
Washington was able to attack Montreal early and often, establishing a comfortable lead on the road. The win keeps Washington in the Eastern Conference's third seed with three games to play, their regular season coming to its close a week from tonight.
Ten more notes on the game:
- The Capitals run their road record to 12-10-2 on the season, Saturday night’s tilt the final away game of the 2013 regular season. Washington and Montreal split their first two games of the season, the Capitals picking up the series' decisive win, and important two points, tonight.
- Alex Ovechkin fired his 29th goal of the year to put the Capitals up by one before the game was five minutes old, looking off Nicklas Backstrom in the slot and slipping the puck under Carey Price. Ovechkin’s second period assist on Backstrom’s goal ties him with Assistant Coach Calle Johansson on the Caps' all-time list with 371 each. Ovechkin would end the night with his league leading 30th goal, a power play tally through Price's legs that began emptying the Bell Centre.
- The Caps’ second goal came together because of a Mike Ribeiro faceoff win, the puck behind Price before the Habs could get another touch on it. A puck possession win to Karl Alzner set up Troy Brouwer on the half wall, the winger skating to the slot and firing the puck through Ribeiro’s screen. The Capitals would end the first period with a two goal lead, confidence looking lost on the Canadiens’ bench.
- Brouwer would score again (his 19th of the year), his second goal a result of smart passes from Marcus Johansson and Ribeiro. The three goal cushion early in the second period is one Washington would not relinquish, unlike last Saturday against Tampa Bay. Tonight marked the third two goal game of the power forward’s season.
- Ribeiro skated an eventful evening in Montreal, the centerman putting three assists on the board in only 15:14 minutes of work. While he was unable to direct any shots on net his three secondary assists set the wheels in motion on important Capitals tallies.
- Backstrom's 7th of the season was a bit of a role reversal, the pivot tapping home a one-touched Ovechkin pass from the half wall behind an over-committed Price. Backstrom made his stick available to the right of the crease and the Capitals' sniper found it waiting for him, the team eagerly up by four and ready to close off the home team.
- Max Pacioretty would score his first goal against Washington in his career, making the home team's deficit four with five to play in the third period. The goal spoiled Holtby's bid at a shutout, the goaltender perfect through fifty-five minutes. Ending his night with a .972 S% will sit well with both player and Head Coach Adam Oates heading into the biggest contest of the season against Winnipeg.
- The Capitals finished the evening 2 for 3 on the power play, their penalty killing unit even better (5 for 5). Both Ovechkin and Backstrom scored on the power play and Brouwer was an inch away from recording a hat trick in the dying seconds with the man advantage. Special teams were a big reason for the regulation win.
- Holtby was terrific in sixty minutes of work, making 35 saves, including several good ones when the game was still within Montreal's reach. Washington's complete game was led from the crease out, the team's last line of defense giving his weapons a chance to win it on the road.
- Washington's Magic Number has dropped to four, that being the number of standings points needed to be gained by Washington or lost by Winnipeg to clinch the division. Depending on the Jets' result against the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night the Capitals could clinch the Southeast on Tuesday at home. See you there.
The Capitals should be feeling loose on the flight home from Canada, the team in control of their own playoff destiny with three to play in the regular season. Their Captain leads the league in goal scoring and the top line's dynamic duo combined for five points in the decisive victory.
Washington returns home to face the Jets on Tuesday night, the team 9-1-0 through their past ten contests. Winnipeg will travel to Washington after leaving Buffalo on Monday night so the Caps should have an advantage in energy and jump. A three game homestand will close out the regular season, the Capitals excited to clinch a playoff position before their finale against the Bruins.