Washington, DC-The Washington Capitals eight-game losing streak is a thing of the past. In fact, it's swiftly becoming a distant memory as they won for the fourth time in their last five games, beating the team who ousted them from last year's play-offs.
The Caps got their vengeance with a solid 3-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens in which they established a stranglehold early and didn't let up against a punchless Canadiens squad. While Montreal failed to mount an offensive attack it was the Capitals who scored early and then played an uncharacteristic two periods of defensive-minded hockey to preserve the lead.
Tonight's game marked the third straight in which the Caps played both ends of the ice with equal tenacity and it more than made up for their lackluster power play going 0-7. They killed off all five Montreal power plays, suffocating their undersized lineup with outstanding efforts from all six defensemen. Mike Green added a first period goal as well on a backdoor pass from Nicklas Backstrom, making it one of the better evenings of the season for the Capitals blue liners.
"I thought everybody played really hard," said Bruce Boudreau. "They were committed to what they were doing and it's new way for us to play, but I think we're liking it."
Jeff Schultz, playing in his first game since breaking his thumb against Toronto, was welcomed back with a win.
"We missed him. He's so consistent," said Green after the game. "He hasn't played in however many games and he comes back and he's solid just like he always is. You have to admire that."
While Schultz's return bolstered the defensive pairings, goaltender Semyon Varlamov turned in another stellar performance, stopping all 25 Canadien shots for his second straight win and his second shutout of the year.
"He played outstanding tonight," said Green. He deserved the first star. There were shots that we couldn't block and he was playing aggressive to make sure he made the save. When he plays like that, he's an outstanding goaltender."
Jay Beagle and Alex Ovechkin had the other goals for Washington. Beagle's was the result of some hard work to win a battle along the boards, but ended with flair as he spun to his backhand in front of the net to beat Habs' goalie Carey Price. The goal gave Washington a 1-0 advantage they would never relinquish.
Ovechkin scored on an empty net to put it away late in the third. He now has 14 goals on the season entering Saturday's Winter Classic showdown with rival superstar Sidney Crosby.