Washington traveled an extremely young and inexperienced group of defensemen, including four players - Madison Bowey, Connor Hobbs, Jonas Siegenthaler and Colby Williams - who have yet to make their regular season NHL debut. Veteran Brooks Orpik and PTO invitee Jyrki Jokipakka rounded out Washington's blueline corps.
By night's end, the Canadiens owned a 77-40 advantage in shot attempts and had nine power play opportunities to four for the Capitals. But Washington's goaltending was excellent, permitting nothing to the Habs at even strength. The Caps' youthful defense bent but did not break, gaining valuable experience in a difficult environment against a more representative Montreal lineup. The Habs dressed most of their top six forwards and four regular defenseman, while number one netminder Carey Price started and played the first half of the game for Montreal.
"They had [nine] power plays," Caps coach Barry Trotz points out. "That sucked a lot of energy off of our bench. That says a lot about the guys there. We got some great goaltending from both Grubi and Copley, and the guys just dug in. That says a lot about the group. They had some fight and some skin in the game today."
Video: Barry Trotz Postgame | September 20
Better - It was far from perfect, but at least the Caps' second preseason game on Wednesday in Montreal was more watchable than Monday's exhibition opener against the Devils in New Jersey.
The Caps forged their first win of the preseason, taking a 4-2 decision from the Habs at Bell Centre on Wednesday. Washington scored a pair of rush goals on the power play in the first, and the Canadiens responded with a pair of extra-man tallies of their own in the second. The Habs frequently hemmed the Caps in their own end in the third - when Montreal owned a 22-11 advantage in shot attempts - but Devante Smith-Pelly made a heady play on a Washington dump-in after one of those hemmed in shifts, and he scored what would prove to be the game-winning goal as a result.
Kid Stuff - After the game, Trotz was asked for his impressions of the young job hopefuls in the Washington lineup.
"I actually liked a lot of the kids," Trotz responded. "I thought [Jakub] Vrana created a lot of chances, and his speed was noticeable. There are still some nuances in his game that we can teach. But his speed gave him a couple of chances right off the back. He had some good looks; you've got to hit the net, though. He missed the net a couple of times."
Video: Kuznetsov, Smith-Pelly lead Caps to 4-2 victory
"I was really impressed with Garrett Pilon. He wasn't intimidated at all. I thought he made some really good little plays.
"I thought Williams, for his first game - he skates so well - he acquitted himself quite well, and the same with [Siegenthaler], the young defenseman. All of the kids were okay. They had their moments. Young [Wayne] Simpson, he's a pretty smart player. He did a really good job. [Chandler] Stephenson, Smith-Pelly and Simpson played against the [Jonathan] Drouin [line] and actually at five-on-five did a good job against them.
"They acquitted themselves quite well. A guy like Chandler Stephenson had a tough task, playing against the top line, and he also killed a lot of penalties. Same with Smith-Pelly. Guys like that really did a good job. I'm probably missing a couple of guys I was really happy with. I thought [Brett Connolly] was really good today. When he was on the ice, he had a lot of jump to his game."
Later in his postgame presser, Trotz had praise for a couple more defensemen.
"I thought Madison was pretty good. I thought he defended pretty good, and he had a pretty good stick. He did a lot of good things. Early, I thought instead of looking for the simple play, he was looking for the big play. Just like many quarterbacks when they have to pick an option, sometimes just getting 10 yards at a time instead of 50 yards at a time is a better option. I think we can tighten his game up so that his game can translate well. But he's got a good skills set, he's a big guy, he moves pretty well. That's the process for Madison. It's his time, and there are guys he is competing against."
"I thought Brooks Orpik was really good tonight. He played a lot of minutes, and they weren't easy minutes, they were hard minutes. I was happy with Brooksie for the most part, because those weren't easy minutes and he was carrying five young guys back there and leading them. So I have a lot of admiration for Brooksie tonight."
Video: Caps Postgame Locker Room | September 20
Two-Man Trouble - Washington has now taken 19 minor penalties in its first two preseason games, and its penalty-killing unit has been tasked with 16 shorthanded missions over those 120 minutes of hockey.
As you'd expect from taking so many penalties in a short span of playing time, there has been some overlap of infractions resulting in two-man advantage situations for the opposition.
Through two preseason games this fall, the Caps have been up against a five-on-three power play four times for a total of 3:05 in duration. During the entire 2016-17 regular season, the Capitals faced just seven two-man disadvantage situations totaling 6:49 in duration.
By The Numbers - Bowey led the Caps with 22:06 in ice time and five blocked shots … Connolly led Washington with 3:40 in power play ice time … Orpik led all Caps defensemen with 8:11 in shorthanded ice time; the Capitals were shorthanded for a total of 14:37 on the night … Zach Sill had nearly as much shorthanded ice time (7:31) as even-strength ice time (7:51) and he led Caps forwards in shorthanded ice time … Alex Ovechkin led the way for Washington with four shots on net and six shot attempts … Tom Wilson led the Caps with six hits … Sill won three of four (75%) face-offs while Stephenson won six of nine (67%) … Orpik took (and lost) one face-off, marking the second straight game in which at least one Caps blueliner was forced to take a draw, a situation that did not occur at all in 4,785 regular season face-offs for Washington last season.