Mikhail Grabovski tied the game with less than six minutes remaining in regulation and scored the game-clinching goal in the fourth round of the shootout to help the Capitals overcome an uninspiring start to earn a 3-2 victory against the Canadiens.
"We talk all the time about the way to win games in this League right now," Capitals coach Adam Oates said. "It's really difficult. You saw that. Their goalie played great. He played great last time in here. Both goalies did tonight. You've got to grind it out. You've got to be willing to grind it out. The second half of the game, I guess we did a better job of doing that."
The win snapped Washington's four-game losing streak. Montreal had its winning streak end at four.
Grabovski and Eric Fehr each had a goal and an assist, and Braden Holtby, who unexpectedly started the game after Michal Neuvirth left pregame warm-ups with a lower-body injury, made 35 saves. Peter Budaj, who made 25 saves in the victory last Friday, made 24 stops in the loss.
Slow starts have been a thorn in the Capitals' side throughout the season, and that trend continued during the first period on Friday.
Daniel Briere opened the scoring at 15:20 of the first period when he and Brian Gionta worked below the goal line. Gionta pushed the puck to Briere, who wrapped around the net and pushed the puck past Holtby.
Despite 3:47 of consecutive power-play time before Briere's goal, the Capitals were held without a shot on goal for the final 15:40 of the period.
Washington got off to a more spirited start in the second period, tying the game at 1-1 at 5:17 when Budaj mishandled the puck behind the goal, allowing Grabovski to corral it and feed a wide-open Fehr in front for his third goal of the season.
Montreal regained the lead 67 seconds later. On a 3-on-1 rush, Tomas Plekanec was the beneficiary of a bouncing puck that was originally tipped by Washington defenseman Nate Schmidt's outstretched stick before ricocheting off John Carlson and back to Plekanec.
It was the third goal in two games the Capitals have allowed within 80 seconds of scoring themselves.
With 5:32 remaining in regulation, Grabovski tied the game when Fehr returned the favor from his earlier goal. Shortly after Budaj stopped his backhand attempt, Fehr, who had to retrieve his stick after it was knocked from his hands, was able to chip a bouncing puck toward Grabovski, who settled it and beat the Montreal goaltender between his legs for his eighth goal.
"Just use my skates, play soccer little bit, but always dangerous when puck in the middle," Grabovski said. "Dangerous to defend that puck, so probably goalie don't see that shot. You try do everything to score a goal. Maybe a risky play, but this worked."
With the shootout tied at 2-2 after three rounds, Grabovski beat Budaj and Holtby stopped Plekanec to seal the victory for Washington.
"I thought we were the team that dictated the game in the third [period]," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "I thought we played well enough to win the game, so I'm disappointed that we came up short, but I believe our effort was there and when you go to a shootout, you never know.
"We found a way to score two goals, but it was not good enough."
The Capitals will look to build off their victory Saturday when they visit the slumping New York Islanders. The Canadiens will return home to face the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.