Well, I was worried about the Senators game being the start of a bad trend (at a remarkably inopportune time). But the Caps got things off on the right foot very strongly tonight at Royal Mountain.
They didn't get started right away with a lot of shots, unfortunately, but did put a lot of pressure on the Canadiens, leading to several icing calls in a row. Finally, the Caps got a forechecking turnover after one of those, and OV got the puck near the half-wall. He skated around a defender, made a nice pass fake to get Price cheating, then put it in, short-side to open the scoring.
They scored again about a minute later when Ribeiro won the draw back to Alzner, who passed it up the wall to Brouwer, circling around. Brouwer came over a little bit to improve his angle, then wristed it high, blocker-side to double the margin.
At that point, the Caps had three shots and two goals. I can't imagine Therrien was pleased with Price's performance, but he didn't give him the hook (which he's been doing a lot, lately).
The Habs got a couple of power plays the rest of the period, but were unable to convert on either of them. If I remember correctly, the first stoppage involved a lot of scrambling, several blocked shots, and a couple of close calls, but the second one was lovely, where they kept preventing the Canadiens from even getting set up.
So the Caps went into the break up by a pair. But things weren't looking great right away, as Erat got flagged for holding the stick (a really weak call, too, especially given some of the instances not called later in the game) only eighteen seconds in. But the Caps stayed strong, and kept Montreal searching.
A couple of minutes later, there was a huge pig-pile in one corner of the offensive zone; the Habs had three players there and a fourth was just coming over when MarJo found Brouwer alone in the slot. Troy took a moment to make sure he had it on his stick ok, then put it into the same corner where he'd put his first goal.
Three minutes after that, the Caps finally got a power play of their own. After getting it into the zone, Ribeiro had the puck on the right half-wall. Seeing nothing there, he moved it back to Green at the point, who held it for a second then passed along to OV. Everyone was thinking shot at this point, so Price played that, strongly. But OV saw Backstrom on the doorstep of the other side, and put it on Nicky's stick where it was deflected in. Very pretty play.
That was pretty much it for competitive play in the game; nobody else scored in the period. While the Caps tried, several times, to feed Brouwer for his second hat trick, OV got the only goal remaining for the Caps. It was also a power play, and the setup was essentially the same as Nicky's goal, except that OV did shoot it, this time.
The only disappointment in the game was that the team was unable to get Holtby his fifth shutout of the season. To Montreal's credit, it was a very pretty passing play to score it; Holtby had no chance at all.
So OV scored his 29th and 30th to gain a little bit of cushion in the race for the Richard trophy. And Brouwer now has an outside shot at breaking his season high in goals, despite only having 48 games. Holtby was again outstanding. As mentioned, he had no chance at all on the goal, and prevented a number of really tough shots against (as a side note, I hope he gets at least one game off the rest of the way).
But calling the lack of a shutout a disappointment is certainly picking nits. Silencing the Bell Center is always a sign of a strong performance. Making it even better, it was the last home game of the season for Montreal. We'll see if that gets in their heads for the playoffs. Ok, probably not, but we can hope.
The Islanders helped the Caps a little bit, earlier in the day. It took a shootout, but they did defeat the Jets. So the Caps just need to take care of business, and win Tuesday's game against Winnipeg in regulation. Things are certainly looking good for that, with the game at home and it being the third game in four nights for the Jets. But if the Caps try to overlook Winnipeg, they will lose, so let's hope they come out like they did tonight.
(Amusing bit of trivia coming out of the game; PK Subban and Lars Eller both played their 199th game tonight, so they should both hit 200 on Tuesday against the Devils.)