WASHINGTON (AP) — T.J. Oshie had a goal and an assist and the Washington Capitals beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 on Saturday night to avoid their first 0-3-0 start since the 2012-13 lockout season.
Conor Sheary and Anthony Mantha also scored for the Capitals.
After back-to-back losses to open the 2022-23 campaign, coach Peter Laviolette shook up the line combinations to try and ignite a spark. The message was heard loud and clear in the locker room, and led to more urgency.
“After two games like that, it is a way to tell the guys, ‘Hey, it is time to get going.’ We have a certain standard that we need to play up to, live up to here, and we weren’t doing that in the first two games,” Oshie said. “We need to keep pushing that standard as the season goes and roll those things over. But definitely when the lines get mixed around … you come to the rink a little more focused than maybe you would otherwise.”
Down 1-0 after Nick Suzuki’s goal, the Capitals got a much-needed spark on special teams that led to three goals in the second period.
“They came at us, got a lot of good shots … they kind of took it to us in the second,” Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin said. “I thought we had a good start in the first and obviously a good third period. It kind of stings that way, but they’re a team with experience and a lot of chemistry, and they’re going to find ways to get goals.”
After failing to convert on its first nine power-play opportunities of the season, the Capitals made some adjustments to the top power-play unit, placing Dylan Strome on the half wall and replacing Evgeny Kuznetsov with Marcus Johansson. That group finally broke through when Oshie got to the front and buried a rebound off Alex Ovechkin’s shot to make it 3-1.
“It was a grind, but the power play I thought did a really good job of moving pucks around,” Laviolette said. “I think there were a lot of chances on the power play. We scored, they moved it around really well and generated looks all over. That was really positive to see.”
In addition to his goal and a team-leading five shots, Oshie assisted on Anthony Mantha’s goal that went in off of Sam Montembeault. The 35-year-old Oshie, who had core surgery before the season and was dealing with an upper-body injury in the preseason, has three points in three games.
Darcy Kuemper also bounced back for a strong showing in his second game between the pipes for the Capitals. After allowing four goals on 29 shots in his Washington debut Wednesday against Boston, the 32-year-old — fresh off a Stanley Cup in Colorado — looked much sharper against Montreal. He finished the night with 21 saves.
“Just for the team to kind of feel that winning feeling, it’s big going forward,” Kuemper said. “It’s good for morale and confidence with the upcoming schedule.”
Montembeault had 26 saves for the Canadiens, who drop to 1-2-0 to start the season.
It did appear that Ovechkin had his first goal of the season after tapping in Erik Gustafsson’s point shot, but it was overturned after a coach’s challenge for offside. Ovechkin finished the night with five shots on goal and hit the post on an empty-net attempt, but was again held off the scoresheet. This is the first time since the 2012-13 lockout year that Ovechkin has gone three straight games without a goal to open a season.
NOTES: Arber Xhekaj had an assist on Suzuki’s goal for his first career NHL point, … Suzuki and Cole Caufield have three points in three games. … Mantha and Kaiden Guhle dropped the gloves late in the third period.
Canadiens: Host Pittsburgh on Monday night.
Capitals: Host former coach Bruce Boudreau and the Vancouver Canucks on Monday night.
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