Backstrom scores winner in third period as Capitals topple Canadiens 3-2
Montreal Canadiens’ Jacob De La Rose takes a shot on Edmonton Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot during first period NHL hockey action in Montreal, Sunday, February 5, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
MONTREAL — The Montreal Canadiens could not slow down a red-hot Capitals team that has been nearly unstoppable at Bell Centre in the last few years.
Washington continued its recent dominance over the Canadiens in Montreal with a 3-2 victory on Saturday afternoon.
The Caps now have at least a point in 14 consecutive road games in Montreal (12-0-2). Their last regulation loss at Bell Centre was on Jan. 10, 2009.
“They come at you in waves,” said goalie Carey Price, who made 27 saves in defeat. “They’re a confident team right now. They make plays and come at you with speed. Their power play is a big threat out there.”
Washington’s power play was the difference on Tuesday with the league-leading Capitals (35-11-6) scoring in the third period with the man advantage.
With Alexander Radulov in the box for hooking, Nicklas Backstrom netted his 15th of the season at 5:16 to put the Capitals up 3-1.
The Canadiens (30-16-7) got a goal back two minutes later when Max Pacioretty scored his team-leading 25th of the year, but that’s as close as the home side would get.
“They’re the hottest team in the league and we had to dig deeper to get two points from them,” said Pacioretty. “Playing one of the best goalies in the world and he played like it.”
The game’s momentum looked to have swung midway through the second period when Radulov beat Braden Holtby on a great individual effort. The game would have been tied 2-2 but the goal was waved off for goalie interference after Pacioretty steamrolled Holtby on the play.
The Canadiens did not challenge the decision but Pacioretty thought it was a borderline call by the referees.
“He (Holtby) might have made contact on purpose,” said Pacioretty. “That’s what I asked (Al) Montoya and Price and they thought he did. In that situation you know where the crease is from feel, and I felt like I was outside of the crease. Awkward position for his skate to be in.
“If he did it on purpose, it was an amazing play by him.”
Holtby was not challenged much after two periods — he faced seven shots in the first and another five shots in the second. But the Canadiens turned up the pressure in the third after going down by two goals.
Perhaps Holtby’s best save came with six minutes remaining on the clock. Montreal’s Alex Galchenyuk was all alone on goal but he was stopped point blank by Holtby.
The Capitals netminder has now won his last 10 starts.
“We haven’t been in many one-goal games lately,” said Holtby, who stopped 20-of-22 shots. “They made a good push and ramped up the intensity. They have some guys who aren’t afraid to crash the net. We knew we had to be aware of that. We kept them to one goal in those areas.”
Jay Beagle scored on Washington’s first shot on Price at 3:02 of the first period. The Caps forward used defenceman Nathan Beaulieu as a screen to beat Price with a wrister glove side.
Radulov tied things up at 1-1 with a wrist shot at 7:32 of the first. Pacioretty got the play going by poking the puck away from Caps defenceman Nate Schmidt to force the turnover.
The Capitals regained the lead when Andre Burakovsky fired a precise shot over Price’s left shoulder into the roof of the net.
“That’s key to our success,” said Caps coach Barry Trotz. “When teams shut down our top lines, someone steps up. That’s the secret for us.”
Notes: David Desharnais was a healthy scratch for Montreal. … John Carlson played his 500th career NHL game. … The game was delayed 10 minutes in the first period to repair a puck-sized hole in the boards behind Holtby’s net.
Kelsey Patterson, The Canadian Press
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