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Capitals top Canadiens for seventh straight win

by Katie Brown

WASHINGTON -- After a four-day break, the Washington Capitals picked up right where they left off.

The Capitals extended their winning streak to seven games with a 3-1 win against the slumping Montreal Canadiens at Verizon Center on Saturday.

"I don't think any of us really know we're on a seven-game run," Capitals goalie Braden Holtby said. "We expect a win every night; we try and prepare in a way that gives us the best chance to do that. That's just our mindset. Win streaks really don't matter at all to anyone but media people. Two points is all we're trying to do day in and day out."

The Capitals (26-6-2) have 54 points, the most in the Eastern Conference. Forwards Evgeny Kuznetsov, Jay Beagle and Jason Chimera scored for Washington.

"A lot of the times our top line has to carry the load," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "This team relies on different people to contribute, and when there's an extra goal or two from the third line -- tonight we got two -- it makes us even more dangerous when those guys are contributing. I thought they were the best line. They had lots of zone time, they were good on faceoffs, they had some good looks, and they were physical."

Holtby made 29 saves; he leads the NHL with 22 wins (22-4-1).

Rookie forward Daniel Carr scored and Mike Condon made 30 saves for Montreal (20-14-3). The Canadiens have lost six consecutive games and are 1-10-0 in their past 11, a huge turnaround after they started the season by winning their first nine games in regulation.

"We're not far off," Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty said. "When you don't feel good about yourself, when the confidence isn't there, I don't think you give it the extra 5, 10 percent. It looks a lot worse than it is -- and it is bad and we have to take responsibility for it -- but we're not far off from playing the right way."

Kuznetsov scored at 6:45 of the first period to give Washington a 1-0 lead, deflecting defenseman Nate Schmidt's shot past Condon. The goal was Kuznetsov's 11th of the season, matching his NHL career high. The third-year player is tied for the Capitals lead with 31 points (Nicklas Backstrom).

Beagle's goal at 1:30 of the second period increased Washington's lead to 2-0. Forward Tom Wilson fed Beagle with a deft drop pass on the rush, and Beagle scored his fifth of the season by beating Condon to the glove side with a wrist shot.

"I think it's huge for us," Schmidt said of the performance after the break. "It's one of those things you don't know how you are going to respond. You go on a break, things are going pretty well. Maybe you steal a couple that maybe we didn't deserve to. But, I think with this team, that we showed tonight that we don't need everybody going. We have good secondary scoring; our third-line and fourth-line guys were good again tonight. It takes a lot of the pressure off some of our top guys."

Montreal made it 2-1 at 1:54 of the second when Carr scored his fourth goal in 10 games since being called up from St. John's of the American Hockey League. Holtby stopped defenseman Andrei Markov's shot, but Carr tapped in the rebound.

Chimera gave Washington a 3-1 lead at 11:15 of the third period, racing past the defense and beating Condon for his 10th goal of the season.

"We all need to bring a little bit more," Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban said. "Ultimately that's going to make the difference in a hockey game, and right now we're almost 40 games in and teams are getting ready for that second half and the playoffs and trying to find out where they stand amongst the League, and we have to understand that teams are looking at us as an opportunity."

Montreal coach Michel Therrien made some aggressive changes to the power play at the morning skate, but the Canadiens went 0-for-2 and are 2-for-33 in their past 11 games.

"We're looking, offensively, way too much for the perfect play with no results," Therrien said. "We stayed way too much on the outside with no results. We need to make sure to put our nose in the kitchen and pay the price a little bit more. We played against a really good hockey team, probably the best team in our conference. It was a tough day for us. You've got to give the Capitals a lot of credit; they're a good hockey team."

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