MONTREAL - While rookie sensation Alexander Ovechkin understandably grabbed all of the headlines with Washington coming to town, it was his supporting cast who did all the damage in the Capitals 5-1 victory over the Canadiens at the Bell Centre on Saturday.
Montreal (13-5-3) dropped their second game in 24 hours after losing 5-3 in New Jersey on Friday while the Capitals (8-12-0) picked up only their second road win of the season, snapping a four-game losing skid in their opponents' buildings.
The Canadiens did manage to become only the fifth team to keep red-hot Ovechkin off the scoresheet so far this season, joining Atlanta, Carolina, New Jersey and Philadelphia.
While come-from-behind wins have been the Canadiens' specialty in 2005-06, not even the Eastern Conference's comeback kings could dig themselves out of the 4-0 hole they found themselves in early the second period.
"Anytime you give a team the kind of gifts we handed the Capitals early in this game and you spot them an early 4-0 lead, you're just asking for trouble," said head coach Claude Julien. "Not to take anything away from the guys in the other room, they worked hard tonight and forced us into some of our mistakes, but our work ethic as a group wasn't where it had to be."
Though disappointed to see his team get out-worked for the second straight night, Julien made it clear that there was no need to reach for the panic button just yet.
"We can't forget about the strong start that we've had to this season. Over an 82-game schedule there are going to be highs and lows. Now it's just up to us to make some adjustments and pick ourselves back up," said Julien. "We've managed to come back in a lot of games so far this year, but even in all those close games we were winning, we continued to stress that we could not come from behind every night. You can't play catch-up hockey as often as we have and expect to be successful long term."
Saku Koivu, who was held without a point for one of the rare times this season, also believes that the Canadiens have been pushing their luck with their heroic ways this year.
"We've had this coming for a while," said Koivu. "There was no emotion at all in the beginning, actually throughout the whole game. We've talked all season about being more consistent and doing the little things. Even in those games when we still won after being down two and three goals, sooner or later that was going to come back and hunt us down."
Michael Ryder notched the Canadiens lone goal of the night with his team-leading ninth of the season coming on the power-play with a little help form Sheldon Souray and Pierre Dagenais. The assist was Dagenais' first point in 10 games since he scored on Oct. 25 against the Flyers. Montreal was 1-for-8 with the man-advantage while the Capitals were 1-for-5 on the power-play.
After being outshot 13-10 in the opening frame, the Canadiens outblasted the Capitals 34-10 the rest of the way for a total of 44 shots, the team's second-highest output of the campaign.
Making his fourth start of the season, rookie Yann Danis lasted only a period and half before turning the crease over to Jose Theodore, after surrendering four goals on 17 shots. In his first relief appearance since stepping in for former Canadiens' backup Mathieu Garon on Feb. 21, 2004 against the Maple Leafs in Toronto, Theodore stopped two of the three shots he faced in over 30 minutes of action.
In his first appearance since Nov. 8 after being sidelined with a hamstring injury, Capitals goaltender Olaf Kolzig had his strongest outing of the year, turning aside a season-high 43-of-44 shots as he improved his career record against Montreal to 13-9-3.
Washington's win was their first win in regulation at the Bell Centre since Feb. 17, 2001 when Michel Therrien and the Canadiens suffered a 6-3 loss to the Capitals.
Goal scorers for the Capitals included Brian Willsie, Brooks Laich, Chris Clark and Brian Sutherby who had his first two goal-night of his NHL career.
Next up for the Canadiens is a date with Ilya Kovalchuk and the Atlanta Thrashers on Tuesday at the Bell Centre.
NOTES: D Mike Komisarek did not dress for the third time this season and first time since sitting out back-to-back games on Oct. 8 and 11... C Radek Bonk made his return to the lineup after missing the last two games and seven of the past nine with an upper thigh injury... Saturday night's match-up with Capitals drew a capacity crowd of 21,273, marking the Canadiens' 12th consecutive sellout of the season and 35th straight overall packed house dating back to 2003-04...D Sheldon Souray extended his three-game point streak by picking up an assist on Ryder's power-play goal. Souray also delivered a game-high six hits... D Francis Bouillon left the game with a reported leg injury following a big hit from Ovechkin early in the third period and did not return.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com