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Canadiens end Caps' streak at 14 with 6-5 OT win

by John Kreiser

The NHL record for consecutive victories is safe for a while longer. Not that the Washington Capitals didn't give it their best shot.

The Caps rallied from a 5-2 deficit with three third-period goals - including one by Brooks Laich with 18.4 seconds left that forced overtime. But their 14-game winning streak ended three games short of the League record when Tomas Plekanec scored his second of the game with 8 seconds left in overtime, giving the Montreal Canadiens a 6-5 victory on Wednesday night.

A victory would have tied the Caps with the 1982-82 New York Islanders for the second-longest winning streak in NHL history - and given Washington the chance to tie the record set by the 1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins by winning at Ottawa on Thursday and St. Louis on Saturday.

The Capitals got win No. 14 on Sunday by overcoming a three-goal deficit to beat Pittsburgh in overtime. They tried the same thing on Wednesday and nearly did it again.

"We always battle hard," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Normally we'd say that was a good point, but we were trying to do something special so it's a deflating loss. I think it was 7 seconds left to get to the shootout where we would have felt pretty confident tonight that we would have been successful, but those things happen."

Montreal led 5-2 after 40 minutes. But Mike Green scored a power-play goal 16 seconds into the third period, Laich made it a one-goal goal at 9:02, then tied the game and completed his first NHK hat trick when he deflected Mike Knuble's shot from the right circle past Carey Price.

But after both sides had several glorious chances in OT, Plekanec won it when he played give and go with Sergei Kostitsyn in the lower right circle, cut to the net and knocked Kostitsyn's perfect pass past Jose Theodore.

"To beat this hockey club is great for us," said Plekanec, whose injury-riddled team used five minor-league callups. "We needed two points in the standings and we got them."

Laich said the Caps couldn't keep tempting fate by giving opponents a big lead.

"Eventually you're playing with fire getting down by two or three goals," Laich said. "During the streak we have been able to come back. We can't continually do it -- it's not a recipe for success -- and eventually when you play a good hockey team they're going to find a way to beat you."

The 14-game streak left the Caps tied with the 1929-30 Boston Bruins for the third-longest in NHL history. Washington had been dominant since its last loss on Jan. 12 at TampaBay, outscoring opponents 67-33 in the 14 wins.

This was one night when a three-goal comeback and an overtime point was no consolation.

"It's obviously disappointing," Green said. "We really wanted to push and keep this thing going. I think it builds character for a team and it's disappointing, but I thought we played well there in the third period and we battled back to give ourselves a chance and you know that also builds character."

Despite allowing five goals Price made 33 saves and was sharp in his first start in six games for Montreal, which played its first game since general manager Bob Gainey's surprise resignation Monday.

"Carey showed some character and determination," coach Jacques Martin said. "He made big saves when we needed them."

The Capitals, who hadn't given up a goal in the first minute of a period all season, found themselves down 1-0 just 36 seconds into this game when Scott Gomez beat Michal Neuvirth. Laich tied it with his first of the night at 6:23.

The Canadiens got another first-minute goal when Tom Pyatt swatted home a rebound to put them back in front 41 seconds into the second period, only to have Nicklas Backstrom tie the game again just 30 seconds later by finishing off a give-and-go with Alex Ovechkin.

Neuvirth left 6:11 into the period with an undisclosed injury, and the Canadiens blitzed his replacement, Jose Theodore, for three goals to grab their 5-2 lead after two periods.

The Canadiens went ahead for the third time at 12:45, when Glenn Metropolit scored his team-leading eighth power-play goal of the season, with an assist going to David Desharnais - the rookie's his first-career NHL point. Just 12 seconds later, Maxim Lapierre took a feed from Kostitsyn and beat Theodore with a low shot for his fifth of the season and a 4-2 lead.

The Caps thought they had gotten one goal back not long after when Ovechkin plowed into Habs defenseman Hal Gill in front of goaltender Price. The puck was in Gill's feet at the time, but Ovechkin's hit pushed both Gill and the puck into Price and, eventually, into the net. The play was called a goal on the ice, but after the four officials conferred without going to a video review, it was waved off. No penalty was called and no explanation was announced as to why the goal was disallowed, but NHL Rule 69.6 forbids a player from pushing the goalie and the puck into the net.

"I don't want to comment, but I think it's a clear goal," Ovechkin said.

Plekanec scored his 16th 18:56 on a blast from the slot to make it a three-goal game.

There was a scary moment with just over 10 seconds to play in the first when Green's slap shot struck Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges in the back of the head. Gorges lay motionless on the ice for several minutes but left under his own power. He was not taken to hospital, but did not return.

"The puck got him right in the helmet, you can see the indentation of the puck in the helmet," Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier said between the second and third period. "He's very lucky. But he's OK, he was chatting with the guys."

Material from wire services and team media was used in this report

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