Alex Ovechkin recorded his 29th and 30th goals, increasing his league lead in that category to three, and Troy Brouwer added two goals of his own. The Capitals now have 52 points and hold a three-point lead over the Winnipeg Jets for first place in the Southeast Division. Washington can clinch the division title and the third seed in the Eastern Conference with a regulation win over the Jets on Tuesday at Verizon Center.
The Capitals needed a win over Montreal to keep a tight grasp on the top spot in the Southeast after Winnipeg picked up a point in a 5-4 shootout loss to the New York Islanders earlier Saturday. While the win over the Canadiens came in impressive fashion, even Ovechkin insisted that Washington must remain focused on the greater task of securing a postseason berth.
“I pretty happy I’m scoring goals. I’m pretty happy we’re winning games,” Ovechkin said. “But we still have three games left and next game is going to be the biggest game of the year. We have to be professional about it and be ready for the next game.”
It took 4 minutes 49 seconds for the Capitals to record a shot on Montreal goaltender Carey Price, who has struggled recently and was pulled in two of his past three starts. But that first shot, from Ovechkin, found the back of net.
The sequence started when defenseman P.K. Subban tried to send the puck out from behind his own net to center Tomas Plekanec. The pass didn’t connect, and Ovechkin swooped in to pick up the loose puck, skated through the left circle and fired a wrister between Price’s legs for a 1-0 lead.
Just more than a minute later the Caps scored again. Brouwer scored his first with 5:57 gone in the first when his wrister from the top of the left circle deflected off Lars Eller and past Price. With just three shots on goal, the Capitals held a 2-0 lead and had only just started to settle into the game.
“We talked about it before the game, that we needed to be focused tonight to come out strong and we did,” said Mike Green, who recorded a pair of assists. “Especially on the road, it’s important to come out of the gates hard. . . . When two goals go in, or at least a goal, you have that ease at least that we can just go out and play our system and be successful.”
Even when Washington, already up by two goals, was whistled for a pair of penalties in the middle of the opening period – Matt Hendricks for cross checking and Steve Oleksy for interference — the Canadiens accomplished little more than irritating the faithful clad in “bleu, blanc et rouge” in the stands.