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Holtby helps Capitals win sixth straight, top Canadiens

by Sean Farrell

MONTREAL -- Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby took a page out of Carey Price's book and made the NHL-leading Montreal Canadiens feel the sting of losing a game they dominated everywhere but the scoreboard.

Holtby made 33 saves to extend his winning streak to eight games, and T.J. Oshie scored his second goal of the game at 8:17 of the third period to lift Washington to a 3-2 win against Montreal at Bell Centre on Thursday.

The Capitals' six-game winning streak is their longest of the season. Washington (18-5-1) is tied for second in the Eastern Conference with the New York Rangers at 39 points, two behind the Canadiens.

"I don't want to take anything away from Montreal," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "Montreal came hard, they were fast; we've had about three or four days off here and we're not very good at coming back from long rests. And they just played faster, they won all the races, chances are probably 2 to 1. Holtby gave us a chance to steal that game, and he did. And you've seen that in this rink with Carey Price many times too, so that was just our turn, I think."

The Canadiens (19-5-3) played their second game since learning that Price, who won the Hart, Vezina and Jennings trophies and the Ted Lindsay Award last season, will be out at least six weeks because of a lower-body injury.

They had a 35-19 advantage in shots on goal, including 17-7 in the second period.

"I can't remember the last time we played in the offensive zone that much and created that many opportunities and had that many chances to score," Montreal captain Max Pacioretty said. "[Holtby's] a great goalie. He made big saves early, and that gives him the confidence to keep doing that."

Oshie twice gave Washington a one-goal lead, including 2-1 with 43.2 seconds remaining in the second period. His shot struck Mike Condon and soared above the Montreal goalie, who lost sight of the puck and had it bounce off his back into the net.

Brian Flynn drew the Canadiens even for the second time when he scored Montreal's sixth shorthanded goal at 2:30 of the third period.

Oshie scored the game-winner when he tipped defenseman Karl Azner's shot past Condon for his eighth goal.

"They're a really good team, obviously," Washington captain Alex Ovechkin said. "They play smart hockey, have good players, but we didn't play our best game, especially in the second period; I don't know how many shots we had, maybe two or three, so it's a good lesson. It's nice to get two points, but we have to play better, don't give [Holtby] all the chances that they had."

Tom Wilson scored at 2:26 of the first period for the Capitals, who won five straight from Oct. 15-23.

Lars Eller scored to make it 1-1 at 12:08 of the second.

"They played a good game," Holtby said. "Their record's the way it is for a reason. I think they caught us on our heels a little bit, but we stuck with it, and that's the beauty of our team, is we feel we can win in any situation. We win in a lot of different ways. It's a good two points, but the way that team is over there, we're going to have to have a better outing against them the next time we play them."

Condon made 16 saves for the Canadiens, who had not lost in regulation through their first 18 games (15-0-3) against Eastern Conference opponents.

"We're disappointed with the result, but we were playing a strong team, and the thing that I appreciated was that we had constant pressure, we controlled the game, and it was tough to play against us," Montreal coach Michel Therrien said. "The story of the game, it's Holtby; he was extraordinary. That is one of the best performances that I've seen by a goaltender this season. That's what made the difference."

Holtby, who was named the NHL's Second Star of November on Tuesday, has his longest NHL winning streak. It is the longest by a Washington goalie since Jose Theodore won 10 straight in 2009-10 to tie Pat Riggin's Capitals record.

"He's been pretty good all year," Trotz said. "I mean, tonight, we don't win that hockey game or even get close to that without his performance. He was the best player on the ice for both teams. He was outstanding."

Holtby robbed Pacioretty with a left-pad save on a shot from the goal mouth in the first. He made back-to-back stops in the second against Pacioretty, who chased down a dump-in by Paul Byron to create a scoring chance and nearly score on the rebound.

"You've got to give him credit, that goalie," said Pacioretty, whose point streak ended at five games. "That was a lot of huge saves in key moments of the game. It was frustrating not to be able to put some by him."

Washington is 12-1-0 when it scores the first goal, 12-0-0 when leading after the first period, and 7-0-0 when leading after the second.

"It was probably the most solemn win that we've had this year," Trotz said. "No one was satisfied with our performance, really. The guys that I thought were really strong for us: Obviously, Holtby I thought was real strong; I thought Tom Wilson had a real strong game; I thought Nate Schmidt on the back end was really strong. Other than that, I'm grasping for guys that I could say were above average. And there wasn't too many, so that's on us.

"We've got to play better and we know it, so we're not really happy with the way we played, but obviously we're happy with the result. But the last couple of games, I don't think we've played our best."

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