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Ovechkin's goal streak ends as Capitals beat Canadiens

Washington Capitals Anthony Mantha (39), Aliaksei Protas - The Canadian Press

MONTREAL — The Washington Capitals were desperate for a win on Saturday.

With eight losses in nine games entering the evening, the Capitals could feel their season slipping away in recent weeks and needed to get back on track before it was too late.

“We talked about it before the game,” forward T.J. Oshie said. “There’s not a point out there that we don’t need right now.”

Oshie scored the 300th goal of his career, while Aliaksei Protas and Anthony Mantha each had a goal and an assist as Washington delivered with a 4-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre.

Instead of falling further down the Eastern Conference standings, the Capitals moved six points behind the playoff cutline with a game in hand on the Detroit Red Wings, who hold the second wild-card spot.

Head coach Spencer Carbery commended his team’s sense of urgency to stick with it in a back-and-forth affair.

“I loved the resiliency. This game for us, as we try to stay in this fight, we had to have two points,” Carbery said. “There’s no scurting around it, we needed two points tonight so for us to deliver … I liked a lot of the things we did tonight.”

Sonny Milano also scored and Darcy Kuemper stopped 28 shots for Washington (24-21-8), which snapped a two-game skid.

Alex Ovechkin earned an assist to record a point for an eighth straight game, but fell just short of tying his career-high seven-game goal streak.

Nick Suzuki, Arber Xhekaj and Alex Newhook scored while Jake Allen made 29 saves for Montreal (22-25-8). Joel Armia had two assists.

Suzuki and Juraj Slafkovsky extended their career-high point streaks. The captain pushed his run to 10 games while Slafkovsky reached eight in the losing effort.

"We we're right there,” Allen said. “It was a battle, but it was just a few costly mistakes and they had some guys who put it in the net."

Tied 2-2 after 40 minutes, Milano scored 3:27 into the third period by tipping a pass from Max Pacioretty past Allen in his first game back from a 27-game absence due to injury.

Suzuki evened things up with a power-play goal at 9:45 for his 20th of the season after a pass from Slafkovsky.

Washington, however, regained the lead with 8:03 left as Protas ended a 29-game goal drought.

With Allen pulled for an extra attacker, Capitals forward Tom Wilson took a minor penalty with 1:27 left to give Montreal a 6-on-4 advantage.

Slafkovsky had three shot attempts alone in a frantic end to the game, including a one-timer blocked by Capitals defenceman John Carlson in the dying seconds.

“It has to go in," Slafkovsky, the 2022 No. 1 pick who's finding a groove in the NHL, lamented after the game.

"Of course I'm pissed right now, but tomorrow is (another) day," he added. “I want to be the difference maker like many guys on this team and yeah, I believe it will start working."

Mantha, of nearby Longueuil, Que., opened the scoring 3:40 into the first period after Nick Jensen’s point shot trickled through Allen and landed on his tape to tuck it home.

Xhekaj responded at 5:04 with a one-timer blast from the point off a pass from Joshua Roy for his second of the season.

"It's probably the hardest shot I've ever taken to be honest,” Xhekaj said. "He teed me up pretty good."

Oshie regained the Capitals lead midway through the period with a power-play goal from the slot after a feed from Dylan Strome

After a couple injury-plagued seasons, Oshie was proud to reach the 300-goal milestone.

“I don’t have many milestones or goals that I set for myself,” he said. “But this was one coming into the year that I wanted to reach.”

Ovechkin had a chance to extend his goal streak nine minutes into the second, but Allen shut the door on his shot from the slot.

Newhook tied the game with 3:45 left in the period to tie things up heading into the third.


Canadiens: Finish a two-game homestand against the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday.

Capitals: Host the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 17, 2024.