Habs keep Capitals in check

Wednesday, 27.12.2006 / 12:00 AM / News
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Habs keep Capitals in check
Dandenault and Downey score their first goals of the season

Aaron Downey celebrates his goal, which would prove to be the game-winner.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Montreal goalie Cristobal Huet wasn't too upset about falling short of his 14th career shutout.

Huet made 30 saves, Mathieu Dandenault and Aaron Downey scored first-period goals and the Montreal Canadiens beat the Washington Capitals 4-1 Wednesday night for their sixth win in seven games.

Alexander Semin knocked in his own rebound at the left post on a power play with 2:56 to go, ruining Huet's attempt at the shutout.

"Whether it's 3-0 or 4-1, it really doesn't matter," Huet said. "We won. That's what's important."

Saku Koivu and Sheldon Souray also scored and Guillaume Latendresse had two assists for Montreal, which has won three straight against Washington. The Canadiens bounced back after opening a four-game road swing with a 4-2 loss at Boston on Dec. 23.

Montreal held Washington's top line in check until the end and got an early boost from Dandenault and Downey, who notched their first goals of the season in the decisive opening period.

"Right now, when guys are getting chances, they're making the most of them," said Souray, who finished with a goal and an assist. "That's good -- we need everyone to contribute. We can't rely on our top line, or our top two lines, to do the offensive work every single night. It's nice when other guys can contribute."

Washington -- in a stretch of six games in nine days, including four in five nights in four different cities -- has lost two straight and four of five games.

"It could be bad because we've got so many games," Capitals right wing Chris Clark said. "Or maybe we can bounce back because we've got so many games and we don't have a lot of time to dwell on it."

Washington didn't have many quality chances through the first 40 minutes. Semin streaked out of the penalty box with 3:12 left in the second, darted down the right wing and forced Huet to brush aside his backhander.

Huet went down to his knees to block an Alex Ovechkin shot from between the circles early in the third period. Ovechkin was held to five shots.

"As a team, we were aware of who was out there and we did a great job of shutting (Ovechkin) down," Canadiens defenseman Mike Komisarek said.

The Capitals wasted three power plays and a 14-7 shots advantage in the first period, and Montreal grabbed a 2-0 lead on tallies by Dandenault, who broke a 27-game goal drought, and Downey, scored his first since April 17, 2006.

Dandenault scored on a run to the right post, converting a cross-crease pass from Latendresse at 12:36. Downey made a dash down the slot, redirecting a right-boards feed from Radek Bonk by Olaf Kolzig, who blocked the puck only to have it bounce high, off his right shoulder and in.

Koivu tipped Souray's shot past a screened Kolzig for a power-play goal with 5:14 left in the third for a 3-0 lead. Souray answered Semin's goal with a short-handed empty-netter with 45 seconds remaining.

Notes: There was a moment of silence before the game to honor former President Gerald Ford, who died Tuesday night. Ford was president when the Capitals entered the NHL as an expansion team for the 1974-75 season. ... Montreal was the last Eastern Conference team the Capitals hadn't played. ... Montreal C Steve Begin (back) missed his seventh straight game. ... Washington played without D Shaone Morrisonn (undisclosed illness) and D Bryan Muir (broken foot).

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