Secondary scoring was a bit of a problem spot at times for the Capitals last season, but that hasn't been the case at all in 2016-17.
Jay Beagle scored in the first period and Andre Burakovsky tallied in the second, and Nicklas Backstrom's power-play goal in the third proved to be the game-winner as the Caps skated to a 3-2 win over the Canadiens in Montreal on Saturday afternoon. Beagle and Burakovsky both scored for the 11th time this season, and for Beagle, that's a single-season career best total.
Video: Caps hang on to edge Canadiens, 3-2, in Montreal
"That's sort of been the key to our success," says Caps coach Barry Trotz. "When teams are shutting down our some of our other lines, the Eller line or the Beagle line steps up. That's been the secret for us, the depth of our team. Those guys are stepping up when other guys are getting shut down."
Braden Holtby made 20 saves - including nine in the third period, and some of the spectacular variety - to make those three goals stand up. Holtby earned his 26th win of the season and the 175th of his NHL career, pushing his career mark at Bell Centre to 8-0-1.
Washington got the swift start it wanted for a 1 p.m. game, taking a 1-0 lead at 3:02 when Beagle took a fine feed from linemate Daniel Winnik and sniped a shot past Canadiens' goaltender Carey Price, beating him high to the glove side.
Minutes later, everything came to a crashing halt when Holtby discovered - and pointed out to officials - a small hole in the bottom of the end boards behind the Washington net. The Bell Centre crew got to work and fixed it, but it took a dozen minutes to repair the breach, which looked a bit like a mouse hole.
Meanwhile, players on both sides skated around and tried to remain warm and limber.
Video: Trotz talks after a 3-2 win in Montreal
"Everybody was skating around, and both teams were the same," says Trotz. "We just said, 'Hey, let's make sure that we're playing fast and we get right back at it.' I thought we were fine. I thought the first scoring chance that Montreal had was actually a goal."
Just over two minutes after play resumed, the Habs tied the game at 1-1 on that aforementioned scoring chance. Washington was unable to nudge the puck out of its zone, and the Canadiens made good after vying successfully to keep it in at the point. Alexander Radulov ripped a wrist shot past Holtby at 7:32 of the first.
Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen made a goal-denying shotblock to thwart a Tomas Plekanec bid in the first, keeping the game even at 1-1 heading to the second.
Washington missed an opportunity to widen its lead on a couple of consecutive power play chances in the first, a pair of infractions that overlapped to give the Caps a two-man advantage for 17 seconds.
Just ahead of the midpoint of the middle period, the Caps regained their lead with another goal from a bottom six forward. Brett Connolly carried into Montreal ice on a three-on-two-rush, sending a cross-ice feed to Burakovsky, who sent a laser of a shot past Price for a 2-1 Washington lead at 9:26.
Video: Caps players talk after a 3-2 win in Montreal
"When the top two lines are not scoring, we need all the guys to step up," says Burakovsky. "I think we proved that today. Obviously a huge start from Beags. A great pass from Winnie to get Beags in the middle for a goal and it gets us going.
"On my goal, I got a great pass from Conno and I just shot. I don't even think I looked at the net. I was just looking down and I had a little bit of luck there."
Radulov scored again later in the second, but officials waved the goal off because Max Pacioretty bumped into Holtby just before the shot went by him.
The Caps killed off a Brooks Orpik tripping minor a few minutes later and were able to take that 2-1 lead to the room after 40 minutes of play.
When Radulov was boxed for an offensive-zone hooking infraction on Alex Ovechkin early in the third period, the Caps' power play took advantage of the opportunity to forge a two-goal lead.
Niskanen kept a Montreal clearing attempt in the Canadiens' zone at the right point, and then he and Backstrom played a quick game of catch high in the Habs' zone. Still above the tops of the circles and with bodies between himself and the net, Backstrom opted to call his own number, and he fired the puck high to the glove side for a 3-1 Washington lead at 5:16 of the third.
Video: WSH@MTL: Backstrom nets PPG through traffic
Coming out of the first television timeout of the final frame, the Habs pulled to within one once again. The Caps lost the draw in their own end, and after Beagle blocked Pacioretty's initial shot, the Canadiens' captain teed it up again and beat Holtby to make it a 3-2 game at 7:49 of the third.
The last dozen minutes were eventful, as the Caps had to kill off a Burakovsky hi-sticking minor, and Holtby was called upon to make several snazzy stops over the waning minutes of the game.
After making two good stops on Alex Galchenyuk and denying Torrey Mitchell's shorthanded try, Holtby halted shots from Andrew Shaw and Radulov, both from inside of 20 feet.
When Orpik blocked Shea Weber's shot in the final seconds, the Caps had secured two points in their final road game for the next two weeks.
"Montreal had a good response there after we scored the third goal," says Trotz. "I thought we were starting to take [the game] away and then they responded with that second goal, and then we had to hang on a little bit. I thought it was a fast, well-played game."