WASHINGTON - Over the past three months, the Montreal Canadiens often have felt after losses that they had played well enough to win. They did enough to get the win against the NHL-leading Washington Capitals on Wednesday.
Alex Galchenyuk scored two goals, and the Canadiens held on for a 4-3 victory at Verizon Center.
"There's a lot of times I thought we deserved a better result, but tonight the result was on our side," Montreal coach Michel Therrien said. "We played the best team in the League in their building. They're really tough to play against, and the way that we came out gave us the confidence after the first period with a two-goal lead. That was important for us."
The Canadiens had a 3-0 lead after Tomas Fleischmann scored early in the second period, and they led 4-1 after Galchenyuk scored his second of the game and 16th of the season later in the period.
Brendan Gallagher scored in the first period for Montreal (29-27-5), which is 11-23-2 since Dec. 1, and goalie Mike Condon made 33 saves.
"We've been saying it all along, we've got a good character group and we're not giving up and we're going to keep fighting until the very end," Condon said. "For everybody, it was a huge win. We've got five out of our last six points and we've just got to keep it going. It's good to beat a team like that. That's a very, very good team."
Video: MTL@WSH: Condon reaches back for terrific save
Jason Chimera, Andre Burakovsky and Dmitry Orlov scored for Washington (44-11-4), which lost for the first time in five games.
Starting goalie Braden Holtby was relieved by Philipp Grubauer after Fleischmann's goal. Holtby allowed three goals on 18 shots.
"Sometimes you have to pull your goaltender," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "It wasn't [Holtby] on any of those goals. We couldn't get it changed on our bench, the thought process. Sometimes trying to do that will give them a little shock. They realized they didn't play well in front of him."
Grubauer, who took the loss, made 15 saves. He is 1-1-0 with a 0.86 goals-against average and .965 save percentage in five relief appearances this season.
Video: MTL@WSH: Galchenyuk opens the scoring on rebound
Galchenyuk opened the scoring at 9:09 of the first period. He picked off an Orlov pass and moved the puck to Dale Weise, who put a shot on net. Holtby made a save on Weise's shot, but Galchenyuk scored on the rebound.
"We have confidence about the way we're playing, and it's a tough building to come into," Gallagher said. "It's a pretty good accomplishment, what we did tonight. We get to enjoy it for a few hours, and then move on to the next one."
The Capitals have allowed the first goal in 13 of 16 games.
Gallagher scored on the power play at 17:47 of the first for a 2-0 Canadiens lead. Holtby made a save against Max Pacioretty, but Gallagher knocked the rebound past the Capitals goalie's glove for his 17th of the season.
"We've had problems scoring in the first and to put up two in the first gave us a lot of confidence and we were rolling really well, so it was a good all-around effort," Condon said.
Video: MTL@WSH: Orlov cuts deficit with top-shelf goal
The Canadiens were 1-for-3 on the power play; the Capitals were 0-for-3.
Fleischmann scored at 1:54 of the second to give Montreal its first three-goal lead of the night. After Holtby kicked out defenseman Mark Barberio's shot, Flesichmann picked up the rebound in the slot and scored his 10th goal, chasing Holtby.
Chimera made it 3-1 when he scored at 5:32 of the second. Condon made a save on defenseman Brooks Orpik's wrist shot from the right-wing wall, and forward Marcus Johansson poked at the puck in the crease but couldn't get it through. Condon lost his footing and the puck popped out on his glove side, and Chimera easily lifted it past him for his 17th goal.
"We didn't play a 200-foot game; we were more interested in chasing the game and not just keeping it at two and chip away," Trotz said. "I thought we had way too many turnovers, breakaways, 2-on-1s. That's not winning hockey for us."
Video: MTL@WSH: Gallagher cashes in for PPG on rebound
Gallagher was awarded a penalty shot at 12:12 of the second, but Grubauer made the save.
Galchenyuk scored 24 seconds later. On a 3-on-2 rush, Lars Eller made a cross-ice pass to Galchenyuk, who scored over Grubauer's blocker side.
"I was feeling confident about our team from this morning and the start, and I had the feeling we were going to come in and win the game," Galchenyuk said.
Orlov scored his NHL career-high sixth goal at 12:24 of the third period to make it 4-2. He carried the puck toward the net from the blue line and beat Condon with a slap shot from the circle.
Burakovsky scored to get the Capitals within a goal with 2:53 remaining. He went five-hole from the high slot on Condon for his 13th goal.
Video: Canadiens hang on for 4-3 win over Capitals