The message for the Capitals had been simple heading into the second period down by one. Stay the course, stick to the system and bide your time – the goals will come.
“If we get down a goal, the last couple games it hasn’t really affected us because we’ve been playing good hockey,” defenseman Jack Hillen said. “That’s a sign of confidence, that’s a sign that we’re playing well for a good stretch here. When you get down a goal and you know you have a good system you just keep chipping away at it.”
The goals did come for the Capitals, 1 minute and 46 seconds apart in the second period to be exact, allowing them to take control of Tuesday’s game en route to a 3-2 win at Montreal.
Washington thwarted a slashing minor to Alex Ovechkin in the opening two minutes of the second and while the Canadiens continued to push for a second goal. It was the Capitals star winger who altered the balance of the game the way he has so many times recently.
John Carlson crossed the offensive blueline and made a backhand pass to Ovechkin, who had gone unnoticed along the right side boards. Michal Ryder tried to take away Ovechkin’s options but wound up only looking foolish as the Washington captain passed to himself through the skates of the Canadiens winger, creating space for a knuckle-puck shot that beat Carey Price to tie the game at 1.
“I just want to shoot the puck. I beat Ryder and I know lots of traffic going to be in front because [Marcus Johansson] by there,” Ovechkin said. “Shot was not that hard but it goes in, so it’s good.”
Less than two minutes later the Capitals created some of their own luck to take a 2-1 lead. Eric Fehr tipped a point shot by Jack Hillen and while Price stopped the initial redirection the puck hopped off his pads and into the air.
With Jason Chimera hacking away at the bouncing puck, Price searched for it and wound up hitting it with his blocker, sending it over his head and to the other side of the crease. There, it appeared to skip of Andrei Markov’s stick and into the net.
“I’m not even sure exactly what happened there, we were going to the net,” Fehr said. “Our line had a lot of good chances today and I thought we could have had a lot more but we’re happy with that one.”
While the Capitals would need one more goal – Hillen’s first tally with Washington – to secure a victory it was that second period that allowed them to gain the upper hand against Montreal.
“We talk every day now that it’s going to take 60 minutes, which it did. The games are going to be closer than they normally are,” Coach Adam Oates said. “Ovi’s goal gave us a lot of life and we got a fluky one and we’re feeling good about ourselves and we had a good second period.”