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Capitals @ Canadiens Recap: Caps Eke Out 5-2 Win Over Habs

Joe Snively scores twice and the Caps chase Primeau after four goals in their 5-2 victory in Montreal.

Washington Capitals v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images

The Washington Capitals are visiting the Montreal Canadiens in Quebec for the first time in over two years, and they will have to do it without Alex Ovechkin. Due to his positive COVID test right before the All-Star break, Ovechkin could not cross the Canadian border even though he played in Washington’s game on Tuesday. With that in mind, the Capitals’ lines looked like this:

With Ovechkin unable to travel to Montreal, Joe Snively is back on the top line and Brett Leason draws into the lineup. Vitek Vanecek is still on injured reserve, so Ilya Samsonov gets the start tonight with Pheonix Copley backing up. The Canadiens are also without some key players, including Jonathan Druin, Joel Edmundson, Christian Dvorak, and both Carey Price and Jake Allen. Also of note for Montreal: Martin St. Louis is making his NHL head coaching debut tonight.

Here’s Thursday night’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: Joe Snively got a chance on Washington’s top line with Tom Wilson and Evgeny Kuznetsov, and he sure as heck did not waste the opportunity. His play was excellent tonight.

Minus: If the Capitals had played the way they did tonight against a good team, they would not have stood a chance.

And now, this:

Twelve more notes on the game:

1. First NHL goal alert! 5:04 after opening puck drop. Justin Schultz got the play started in the neutral zone and shot the puck on net through traffic, and the puck bounced off Cayden Primeau’s pads right to Snively. The rebound was too good to pass up, and he fired the puck past Primeau for his first career NHL goal.

Snively is the eighth Capitals rookie to score a first NHL goal this season, and he is just the third Virginia-born player to ever score an NHL goal. This is also the 33rd time the Capitals have scored first this season, which leads the league

2. Just 20 seconds later, the Caps went up 2-0 with a goal from Connor McMichael. Lars Eller brought the puck into the Montreal zone and sent it over to McMichael in the slot. McMichael sent a casual-looking shot on net and it leaked through five-hole on Primeau for his seventh goal of the season.

3. Ben Chiarot was called for interference on Conor Sheary one minute after McMichael’s goal, putting the Caps on the power play. This would normally be a great way to keep momentum going, but that is not the case for Washington. They iced the puck relatively early on and did not get much of anything going after that. Apparently even Montreal can stop the Capitals’ power play.

4. Dmitry Orlov took his own interference penalty on Jake Evans with ten minutes left in the first. The Capitals have allowed power play goals in their last three games, but the Canadiens’ power play is ranked 31st in the league: stoppable force meet movable object. The Washington penalty kill won this match-up, keeping Montreal’s power play off the board.

5. 3:40 into the second, Carl Hagelin scored an absolutely incredible goal on a sharp angle shot to put the Caps up 3-0. Hagelin stepped on the gas for the zone entry and drove towards the end boards before deciding to shoot from just above the goal line. The puck went behind Primeau and straight to the top right corner of the net with a blink-and-you-miss-it shot.

Not even Joe B and Locker knew what happened at first, which is when you know.

6. Just 29 seconds after Hagelin’s goal, the Canadiens got on the board with a goal from Rem Pitlick after a broken play from the Capitals in their own zone. Samsonov had gotten a bit out of position, and Pitlick took advantage of the empty crease and tapped the puck over the goal line.

7. Not satisfied with a measly first NHL goal tonight, Joe Snively restored Washington’s three-goal lead 1:09 later after Pitlick’s tally. Snviely beat Jeff Petry with a spectacular individual effort in the slot, and he appeared to fool Primeau as he continued to move laterally to Primeau’s right but fired the puck over Primeau’s left shoulder.

Exit Cayden Primeau, enter Sam Montembeault.

8. Lars Eller took a seat for slashing against Josh Anderson with just over five minutes left in the middle frame. Nic Dowd his the post with a shorthanded attempt early into Montreal’s power play, but Cole Caufield was the one who got on the board after 62 seconds on the man-advantage with a backhand shot. He roofed it shortside over Samsonov, who looked like he dropped down just a split second too early. This is the seventh goal the Capitals’ PK has allowed in their last 11 times shorthanded. 4-2 Capitals with 24 minutes of play to go.

9. 3:40 into the third, Martin Fehervary was called for tripping Joel Armia. The Canadiens came out of the second intermission flying, so giving them a power play was probably the last thing the Capitals wanted to do. Thankfully, the Caps’ penalty kill woes did not continue here and they managed to hold off the Habs.

10. Brett Leason took a seat for tripping Brett Kulak with 11:10 left on the clock. 40 seconds later, Chris Wideman was called for high-sticking Evgeny Kuznetsov to cue up some four-on-four hockey. Neither team scored, and the Capitals failed to score on their abbreviated power play (shocker, right?). Still 4-2 Washington with 8:30 to go.

11. Cole Caufield, who we guess only scores against Washington, appeared to strike again with just over five minutes left in the game. However, Laviolette and the Caps’ coaching staff challenged the play for offside. After a brief deliberation, the goal was indeed called back and the score remained 4-2 in favor of the Capitals.

12. Habs’ coach Martin St. Louis pulled Montembeault with a little over four minutes remaining. The Canadiens had a good chance shortly after Montembeault left for the bench, but Samsonov made a better save. Fortunately for the Caps, it was Tom Wilson who found the back of the net next with 1:15 to go. Snively tallied an assist on the goal to give him a three-point night, the icing on the cake for the Capitals tonight. Caps win 5-2.

Up next for the Caps: a Super Bowl Sunday matinee meeting with the Ottawa Senators on February 13 at 12:30 PM.