The other day, Adam Oates said one of his biggest concerns during the Capitals’ lengthy losing streak was that some of his players would begin cheating defensively in an effort to break out of their scoring slumps.
He kept beating the drum that if the Capitals continued to play sound defensive hockey, the goals – and the wins – would come.
On Saturday night, that message finally came with a result.
After netting eight goals in their seven-game losing streak the Capitals exploded for five goals – all of them at even strength – to earn a 5-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre.
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“We needed that,” Oates told reporters after the win. “I was a little worried. We had a good first period and we didn’t get anything out of it. We had some good chances. I’m like, ‘Here we go again.’
“But obviously [Ovechkin’s second period goal] got us going. The second one [from John Erskine] was a little fluky, but it was our turn to get a break.”
Perhaps the best sign from Saturday night’s win was that the Caps never stopped playing. After taking a 4-0 lead in the second period they continued hounding the puck and playing good positional defense.
And they also received 21 saves from Braden Holtby, who desperately needed a shot of confidence.
“From top to bottom, everyone had a great game,” said Jay Beagle, one of three Capitals to score his first goal of the season, joining Erskine and last-minute callup Casey Wellman, who took Mikhail’s Grabovski’s [leg injury] spot in the lineup.
“We came out and played the style of hockey that we wanted to play and that we had talked about in the meetings. And we played a full 60 minutes, which was huge. You can’t have any lapses. We were going the full 60 and it was just great to get a win like that and get the monkey off our back.”
Holtby might want to request more Saturday night games for the Capitals. In his NHL career he is now 15-4-3 with four shutouts on Saturday nights.