WASHINGTON – The Canadiens came into the Verizon Center with confidence and pulled out a win thanks to an early offensive outburst.
Travis Moen snapped a 46 game goal-less streak by fooling Michal Neuvirth with a quick wrist in the middle of the first period. It would prove to be the start of a great night for the rugged left-winger, who found the scoresheet for a second straight game skating with Michael Bournival and Ryan White.
“We’re starting to develop good chemistry as a line. We spent a lot of time in the offensive zone and generated chances. It seems like Coach has confidence in us defensively too, so that’s great,” offered Moen, whose line has been instrumental in the Habs’ last two victories. Despite nominally being the Canadiens’ fourth unit on the depth chart, the three feisty forwards are quickly becoming a game-breaking presence.
Centerman Ryan White assisted on Moen’s goal, picking up his first point of the year. While racking up points is a thrill for any player, White has another statistical category in mind when it comes to his self-assessment.
“It’s always good to get points, but the main thing for our line is to end the night with a positive plus-minus,” insisted the rugged pivot. “We want to work hard to keep the puck far away from our net.”
“It was a good road win,” White added, referring to how his team went up 3-0 in the first period before holding on for a 3-2 win at the Verizon Center. “They weren’t pretty goals, but we worked hard and got rewarded when we went to the net. In the end, we got the win and that’s what matters.”
Alex Ovechkin scored twice for the Capitals, but the rest of the home team’s high-powered offence was shut down entirely by the Habs. A good chunk of the credit can be given to Peter Budaj, who earned his first career victory against Washington in his fifth start this year.
Though few would compare Budaj’s butterfly style to that of Ken Dryden, the Habs netminder repeatedly channelled the Hall-of-Famer during the game. After facing only three shots in the second period, he came up huge against Nicklas Backstrom, Joel Ward and Jason Chimera, who all had breakaway chances denied by clutch saves.
“It felt good. We were pressing, shooting the puck a lot, they couldn’t get any chances, and all of a sudden, they get a breakaway,” mentioned the Slovakian goaltender, who stood idle for long stretches of time due to his team’s strong possession play. “I’m glad I was able to make the save and prevent Washington from getting back into the game.”
Another playing breathing a sigh of relief is centerman David Desharnais, who tipped home a Josh Gorges point shot to net his first of the season. One of the Habs’ biggest offensive threats of late, he now has three points in his last two games.
“Actually, the shootout goal in Columbus felt even better,” confessed Desharnais, referring to his game-winning move against the Blue Jackets. “But it’s fun to finally get the first official goal of the year. It would have been disappointing to see the goal waved off; the wait was a lot longer in my head than it actually took.” Indeed, the referees on the ice initially allowed the goal, before double-checking with their colleagues in Toronto to make sure that the slick forward did not make contact with the puck over the crossbar.
“He scored an important goal and controlled the play in the offensive zone for a good amount of time. I see lots of good things in his play,” acknowledged Canadiens coach Michel Therrien. “In the past ten days his compete level has been really good, and when you compete, you gain confidence.”
Minutes after Desharnais made it 2-0, Daniel Briere would add a powerplay goal to lift the Habs to a 3-0 lead. Thereafter, it was a matter of keeping the Caps at bay. The home team lifted their goaltender in favour of an extra attacker with a minute and a half left in the game, but could not break through.
“We had an excellent start to the game and we played fantastic in the second period. In the third period, Washington really started pressing. The guys did a really good job, backchecking hard and making second efforts. It wasn’t pretty on several occasions but in the end we got the win, and that’s what counts,” concluded Michel Therrien.
The Habs won’t have much time to celebrate, as they will now head back to Montreal and prepare to take on Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night. Tonight’s heroes will want to catch a good night’s sleep, and try to score another upset in less than 24 hours.