MONTREAL – There was a time in the not too distant past that if you stopped Alex Ovechkin you stopped the Capitals.
Not anymore. At least not the way Troy Brouwer is scoring goals.
Ovechkin continued his chase for the Rocket Richard Trophy with his league-leading 29th and 30th goals of the season, but it was the contributions of the Caps’ second line that was too much for the Montreal Canadiens to handle in the Caps’ 5-1 win Saturday night at the Bell Centre.
“I know in the past it’s been a lot about Alex and it still is,” Brouwer said after netting his 18th and 19th goals of the season. “But by having a second line that’s producing we’re making it a lot tougher for D-men on the other team to try to pair up against either Alex or our line because both lines have been dangerous pretty much every night for the last little while.”
With the win the Capitals are now 13-2-1 in their last 16 games, a streak that began with back-to-back wins in Winnipeg on March 21 and 22. The Caps are now three points ahead of the Jets in the Southeast Division standings and can clinch the division with a regulation win over the Jets Tuesday night at Verizon Center.
“I pretty happy I’m scoring goals. I pretty happy we’re winning games,” Ovechkin said. “But we still have three games left and the next game is going to be the biggest game of the year. We have to be professional about it and be ready for the next game.”
Although the Caps took control of the game early, they needed Braden Holtby to stop 35 of 36 shots to stave off any threat of a Canadiens comeback. Holtby was the beneficiary of Raphael Diaz hitting the goal post with the Caps leading 2-0, but he also made a nice poke-check on Tomas Plekanec, who was all alone in front, and robbed Alex Galchenyuk with a glove save in the third period.
“We’re still giving up more [chances] than we’d like,” Holtby said. “I got lucky and they hit a few posts.”
Holtby also showed his competitive side, giving Travis Moen a face full of his blocker when Moen crashed the net in the second period.
“He was driving the net hard,” Holtby said. “There was no option to score there. He’s just trying to run the goalie over. … I was just protecting myself. …Guys driving to the net like that, I’m going to take my safety into my own hands.”
The Caps’ penalty killers had to be strong all night because Washington gave the NHL’s fourth-ranked power play six cracks on the man-advantage. Defenseman John Erskine logged a team-high 6:18 on the penalty kill.
The Caps' mastery of the Canadiens left Montreal coach Michel Therrien grasping for answers after his team's fourth loss in five games.
"I'm disappointed in every aspect of our game," Therrien said. "Five-on-five, penalty kill, power play."
Ovechkin felt entirely different.
“Everybody was focused and everybody was ready for a big game,” Ovechkin said. “The killers did a great job, they had to.”
Oates said he’ll give his players the day off on Sunday then put them back to work on Monday and continue to work on the little details that has led to their run to the top of the Southeast Division.