WASHINGTON- Not even Santa Claus' impending visit was enough for the Canadiens to halt their recent road skid as they fell 4-2 to the Capitals Friday night at the MCI Center.
With the loss, the Canadiens (17-10-6) have now dropped their last eight games away from the cozy confines of the Bell Centre with Montreal's last road win coming in a 3-2 decision over the Sabres in Buffalo back on Nov. 4. For the second time in four games, the Canadiens were unable to put a game away despite leading after two periods.
Richard Zednik, who made his return to the lineup after sitting out Tuesday's 4-3 win over the Senators with the flu, opened the scoring with his 10th of the season. With the Canadiens on the power-play, the former Capitals winger wired a shot past ex-teammate Olaf Kolzig on a play set-up by Francis Bouillon and Pierre Dagenais.
Zednik's goal held up until the third period when the Capitals (12-19-2) sprang to life with four goals to pick up their second win in as many games over the Canadiens this season. The win was also Washington's second victory in less than 24 hours following their 6-5 shootout win over the Thrashers in Atlanta on Thursday, despite having won only two of their last 11 previous games.
Mathieu Biron and former Canadien Dainius Zubrus scored a little over two minutes apart to give the Caps their first lead of the night at the 4:24 mark of the final frame.
Montreal evened things up when Steve Begin ended a 13-game goal drought when he deflected Andrei Markov's shot past Kolzig. It was Begin's eighth of the season and his first since Nov. 15 against Florida. Markov and Michael Ryder picked up the assists on the marker, extending their points streaks to nine and six, respectively.
The Capitals weren't done yet. Matt Pettinger surprised Cristobal Huet before Alexander Ovechkin beat him from a tough angle. With an assist on the Russian rookie's 20th goal of the season, Jeff Halpern, appearing in his 400th NHL game, ended the night with three helpers.
Huet, who was making his third consecutive start while Jose Theodore is sidelined with a sore knee, suffered his first regulation loss as a Montreal Canadien. The 30-year-old netminder stopped 27 of 31 shots while counterpart Kolzig turned aside 41 of the Canadiens' 43 shots. Kolzig, who is 14-9-3 lifetime against Montreal, has been successful against Claude Julien's crew this season, having made 43 saves back on Nov. 19 at the Bell Centre.
After spending Christmas with their families, the Canadiens will continue their five-game road trip Monday, when they will visit the Atlanta Thrashers.
NOTES: Saku Koivu (groin), Tomas Plekanec (knee) and Radek Bonk (groin) remained out of the lineup with their respective injuries...The loss was just the second in regulation (12-2-3) for the Canadiens when they open the scoring...Washington is just 3-16-0 when trailing after 40 minutes...Pierre Dagenais' assist was his sixth point in eight games in December...Craig Rivet logged a season-high and game-high 30:40 against the Capitals...
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com