On February 19, 1980, the Capitals registered their first-ever victory over the Montreal Canadiens before 13,551 fans at the Capital Centre.
The evening started ominously, as Caps defenseman Robert Picard took a puck off his forehead during warm-ups. He took 12 stitches to close the wound and returned to the ice for the start of the game.
After a scoreless first period, Picard got the Capitals on the board when he beat Montreal goaltender Denis Herron at 10:53 of the second period. Less than two minutes later, the Canadiens' Pierre Mondou tied the game when he tucked the puck behind Capitals netminder Wayne Stephenson.
After two periods, the score was tied at 1-1 and Montreal held an 18-13 advantage in shots on goal. The Habs came out with a fury in the third period. The Canadiens peppered Stephenson with shots-14 in all. But he held firm, kicking aside every Montreal bid. Stephenson helped his own cause at 12:53 of the third when he and Bob Sirois assisted on Bengt Gustafsson's go-ahead goal. The Caps continued to quell the Montreal barrage, and were finally able to breathe easy when Mike Gartner scored into an empty net with 50 seconds remaining in the game. Despite mustering just three shots on goal in the third, the Caps scored the only two goals of the period and came away with the victory.
Before they finally put an end to Montreal's mastery, the Caps were 0-31-3 against the Canadiens. In those 34 contests, the Caps were outscored by a total of 195-55.