WASHINGTON -- The Montreal Canadiens played the role of unwanted party guest at the Washington Capitals' 40th anniversary celebration.
Montreal spoiled the festivities Thursday at Verizon Center, overcoming a sluggish first period to defeat Washington 2-1 in a shootout.
"We start to play, we start to hustle in the second period," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "We start to play with more passion. And we start to execute a lot better. Obviously we got dominated in the first period."
Tomas Plekanec scored his third goal in two games to tie the game in the third period, and Brendan Gallagher scored the decisive goal in the fifth round of the shootout to give the Canadiens two wins in as many nights to start their season.
Rookie goaltender Dustin Tokarski made 29 saves through regulation and overtime.
"He made save after save to keep us in it," Canadiens forward Brandon Prust said. "Certainly we know we have to be better to start games, but [Tokarski] saved us and gave us a chance to win it."
Rookie forward Andre Burakovsky, making his NHL debut, had the Capitals' lone goal in regulation. Goaltender Braden Holtby made 23 saves for Washington (0-0-1).
"We've been in that situation very often last year and that's something we're really going to have to get stronger at, those tight games, those low-scoring games," Holtby said.
The Capitals, who played the first game in franchise history exactly 40 years ago Thursday, kicked off their season-long celebration in front of a raucous, sold-out crowd.
From the opening faceoff, the Capitals fed off that energy, pouncing on the Canadiens, who were playing the second of back-to-back road games. Washington dominated the first period, outshooting Montreal 15-2.
A turnover in the defensive zone early in the period led to Burakovsky's goal. Troy Brouwer pressured defenseman P.K. Subban, forcing him to cough up the puck as he turned up ice. Brouwer threaded a pass toward a waiting Burakovsky in the slot and the 19-year-old ripped a one-timer past Tokarski at 6:43, celebrating by leaping into the glass.
Burakovsky, the Capitals' first pick (No. 23) in the 2013 NHL Draft, became the 13th Washington player to score a goal in his first NHL game and the first since Alex Ovechkin and Jakub Klepis did it in 2005. It was also the second-fastest first career goal in franchise history, missing the record set by forward Jim Hrycuik in Washington's inaugural game by less than two minutes.
"It was real nice. It was huge," Burakovsky said of his goal. "It's just a great moment but it would be so much better if we would just win this game."
Montreal finally forced Holtby to make a save nearly 18 minutes into the period, and Washington coach Barry Trotz lamented not taking control of the game in the first 20 minutes.
"That's where we lost the game is in the first," Trotz said. "We scored the first goal and then we had to back-to-back-to-back power plays and we had a chance to really take the game over. They were sort of hanging on and we really needed that second goal. We couldn't get it."
Therrien tweaked his forward lines at the start of the second period in search of a spark, and Montreal responded by outshooting Washington 12-7. The Capitals and Canadiens ratcheted up the feistiness as well, with one scrum in the final minute leading to three roughing penalties.
"Over the course of the season, that's a good thing," Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen said of the post-whistle incidents. "You've got to be smart. There's a good time to do it and a time not to. For the most part, if someone's taking advantage of a guy who's vulnerable or something like that, then it's the right thing to do to step in there and let him know."
Montreal appeared to tie the game midway through the third period on a goal by PA Parenteau. But it was quickly waved off when it was determined that Rene Bourque had interfered with Holtby in the crease.
However, the Canadiens got a goal that counted 80 seconds later when Plekanec snapped a shot past Holtby at 10:31.
With 4:29 remaining, Bourque seemingly gave Montreal the lead during a power play, but a video review determined that his shot rang the post but never crossed the goal line.
In overtime, Plekanec prevented Brooks Laich from scoring a potential game-winning goal by tying him up on a rebound attempt in front. Alex Galchenyuk, David Desharnais and Gallagher scored in the shootout.
"The last two periods, we started to play more our style of game," Prust said. "We were able to create some changes, create some turnovers and it paid off."
The Capitals visit the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Saturday, the same day the Canadiens continue their season-opening four-game road trip against the Philadelphia Flyers.