The Washington Capitals got off to another whirlwind start tonight, blitzing Montreal with two goals in less than four minutes. Despite some promising situations set up by penalties against the Canadiens, they never scored again.
Montreal, on third-period goals by Pierre Mondou and Guy Carbonneau, pulled out a 2-2 overtime tie in a game that left the Capitals doubly tied, because Philadelphia beat New Jersey to regain a share of first place in the Patrick Division.
Washington was a weary crew by game's end, as the bounce of the puck and scrape of the stick brought trainer Dick Young out to provide treatment on five separate occasions to Capitals who were momentarily stunned. The only player who had to retire, however, was Montreal's Rick Green, forced out by a hip injury in the second period.
The tie prevented goalie Pat Riggin from recording his 100th NHL victory. Nevertheless, it extended Washington's overall unbeaten streak to seven games and its undefeated road string to nine. The Capitals have been beaten only once in their last 14 contests.
"It was like life or death out there, everybody blocking shots and getting their sticks up," said Washington's Scott Stevens, who scored a power play goal and later needed treatment when he blocked a shot just below the rib cage and had trouble breathing. "The first period, we could have been up three or four goals, then we started sitting back to make sure we didn't give anything away and we almost made too sure."
Certainly, it started out like another onesided triumph in the fashion of Tuesday's 4-1 breeze past Quebec. The beginning was almost identical, with Gaetan Duchesne picking up a deflected Doug Jarvis shot and beating goalie Steve Penney after 23 seconds. Duchesne had put Washington ahead to stay at the 27-second mark in Quebec, after Bob Carpenter had scored 16 seconds into Sunday's 6-3 triumph over the New York Rangers.
"In Quebec, I was surprised, but tonight I can't say that anymore," Duchesne said. "We were forechecking, we put on a lot of pressure, the puck came right to me and I shot it in. It was great."
It became 2-0 at 3:40, with Montreal's Craig Ludwig off for interference. Mike Gartner circled out from behind and, when his shot was blocked by the defense, Stevens trailed from his left wing position on the power play and put it in.
The Capitals had many opportunities to extend their lead to 3-0, but Penney made some remarkable saves. One came at 5:30, with Washington captain Rod Langway in the box for tripping. Duchesne stole the puck and fed Jarvis on a short-handed two-on-one, only to have Penney smother the puck in his pads. At that point, the Capitals had an 8-0 margin in shots.
Montreal's Chris Nilan charged into Riggin and defenseman Darren Veitch from behind, leaving Riggin with a bruised right arm. He went unpenalized, but on the ensuing faceoff he speared Timo Blomqvist and was assessed a major penalty.
Shortly after the power play began, Ludwig caught Gartner with a high stick that required five stitches on the left side of the chin. It deserved another major, but referee Ron Fournier apparently figured he had reached his limit and called nothing.
During the five minutes with Nilan off, Penney made six saves and a seventh shot, Bengt Gustafsson's deflection of Veitch's drive, deflected off a post.
"That five-minute penalty was a big turning point," said Coach Bryan Murray. "But all I've talked about to the players on the power play is to get good chances. We had a lot of quality chances and Penney stopped them."
Riggin made 13 saves during the scoreless second period, which saw considerable concern directed at puck catchers Stevens and Langway, who was cut on the left eyelid by a deflected Montreal shot.
Since Langway was wounded during a Montreal power play, Murray took a timeout and Langway was back on the ice to help kill the last 56 seconds. During that stretch, Gartner rattled the post with a backhander from the slot in another bid for a short-handed score.
Langway was off for holding when the Canadiens finally broke through at 7:30 of the third period. Mondou took Chris Chelios' pass out of the right wing corner and slid a backhander between the legs of Stevens and past a screened Riggin.
Successive penalties to Mike McPhee and Carbonneau set up a two-man Washington power play for a potential 84 seconds, but after 33 seconds Ludwig took a dive over Gustafsson's stick and Fournier dealt the Swede a minor for hooking.
Carbonneau tied the score at 12:16 on a shot that looked impossible to both Stevens and Riggin, either of whom could have reached the puck with his stick, but declined out of fear of knocking it in.
Petr Svoboda's long shot was deflected and carried to the rear boards. The puck bounced out to Carbonneau on the goal line beyond the left post. With Riggin out of the cage, Carbonneau slid the puck through the crease, off the far post and into the net.
"Petr had the shot, it deflected on the way and I went behind the net," Carbonneau said. "I tried to move in front and pick up the corner and it hit the inside of the post."
"I came out to cut the angle on the first shot," Riggin said. "When Carbonneau got it, I had a chance to put my stick down, but it was on the goal line and I didn't think he could make it.
"I felt stupid after it went in. But I was afraid I'd put it in myself. Scotty told me he was afraid of the same thing. It was just an impossible shot that somehow got in there."
Penney stopped two flu-ridden Capitals, Carpenter and Gary Sampson, on successive shots with a half minute left in regulation.
Montreal outshot Washington, 3-1, during the five-minute overtime, when a shot by Veitch struck Carpenter in the foot and left him limping.