MONTREAL — Alex Ovechkin was back — and so were the Washington Capitals’ winning ways.
Ovechkin returned from an injury that sidelined him two games to start a four-goal second period as the Capitals ended a seven-game winless slump with a 5-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night.
“It’s a big win, a good win for the boys,” Ovechkin said. “It brings some confidence back.
John Erskine, Jay Beagle and John Carlson also scored in the middle period as the Capitals, who had scored only three goals in their four previous games, dominated the first half of the game and then shut Montreal down.
“This building is an exciting place,” Ovechkin said. “It’s good.”
The Canadiens have lost four in a row and five of six, and their dressing room remained closed to the media for a long time after the game. When it opened, every player was at his stall.
“It’s embarrassing to be at home and play the way we did,” defenseman Josh Gorges said. “We have nobody to blame except ourselves and we have to be a lot more resilient moving forward.”
Casey Wellman, recalled Saturday from AHL Hershey, got his first goal of the season on a feed from Ovechkin on a 2-on-1 counterattack 8:38 into the third period.
Washington’s Braden Holtby improved his record against Montreal to 5-0-0 with four shutouts.
Washington had a 26-3 edge in shots before Carlson’s goal at 10:31 of the middle period chased goalie Carey Price in favor of backup Peter Budaj.
The Canadiens’ slump has some speculating about the status of coach Michel Therrien’s job — although Gorges doesn’t think a change is needed.
“I cannot see one guy that has lost faith in anyone in this organization,” he said. “That’s not who we are.
Collectively, we’re just in a rut and we’re finding ways to beat ourselves.
“Tonight, once we got down, mentally we didn’t have that resiliency. But in no way, shape or form are we quitting on anybody.”
Ovechkin was back in the lineup after being sidelined with a lower-body injury. He fed Troy Brouwer on a power play for a shot that was disallowed when video review found it entered the net a fraction of a second after the first period ended.
The man-advantage had just ended in the second period when Jason Chimera’s rebound appeared to be floating past the net. But Ovechkin tapped the puck twice in the air to keep it from getting away, then lifted it into an open side for his 36th of the season.
“It was kind of a tough angle,” Ovechkin said, “but it’s in and we’ll take it.”
Less than two minutes later, Erskine saw his sliding pass go through a surprised Price’s legs after P.K. Subban lifted Brooks Laich’s stick in front of the net.
Beagle scored on a setup from Tom Wilson at 6:21, which got the Bell Centre crowd of 21,273 booing the home side, and Carlson added one on a long shot Price didn’t see.
The Canadiens were booed loudly by the 21,273 Bell Centre fans, who also gave a mock cheer when they were held without a shot on goal until Daniel Briere got only their fourth of the game at 12:25 of the second period.
“It’s probably the biggest cheer I ever got for making a save,” Holtby said.
“People should be frustrated,” Subban said. “I’m frustrated. Everybody’s frustrated in here. But that’s life. That’s part of the sport. It’s how you respond. I think we have the right attitude in here. We just have to work through it.”
Therrien said every team goes through bad patches in a season and it’s up to them to play their way out of it.
“That the players had a meeting shows they want to fix the problem,” he said. “I have confidence we will bounce back from this.”
NOTES: The Capitals have won seven in a row at the Bell Centre since March 2011, and are 9-1-1 in their last 11 visits. … There was a standing ovation in a pregame ceremony for Anthony Calvillo. The CFL’s career passing leader retired earlier this week from the Montreal Alouettes. … Montreal D Raphael Diaz was scratched for the fourth straight game. … While Ovechkin returned, C Mikhail Grabovski sat out with a lower-body injury. … Washington’s Adam Oates coached his 100th game with the Capitals.
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