You can’t win hockey games if you can’t score goals.
That was the case for the Canadiens Monday night as they scored a goal early in the game and then played catch-up en route to a 4-2 loss to the Washington Capitals at the Bell Centre.
There was some luck involved — the Capitals got the bounce on one of their goals and the Canadiens had one third-period attempt denied by a video review — but the bottom line was that Montreal wasted some opportunities, with a failure to find the net or trying to make one pass too many.
The Capitals took control of the game when Jakub Vrana scored his 23rd goal of the season with five minutes to play in the second period, giving Washington a 3-1 lead. The crowd was in a restless mood, serenading the Canadiens with boos as they headed to the dressing room for the second intermission.
That might have served to spur the Canadiens because they threw 15 shots at Braden Holtby in the third period, but they managed only one goal.
Montreal thought it has a goal when Joel Armia hit a post five minutes in and Holtby reached back to keep the puck out. The play went to a review but there was no angle showing the puck completely across the goal line.
Montreal did cut the lead to one goal when Dale Weise scored on a backhander at 7:30. It was the first goal of the season for Weise, who was marking a milestone with his 500th NHL appearance. The hopes officially ended with Nicklas Backstrom’s empty-netter.
The Canadiens had to settle for a 1-1 draw after 20 minutes because the Capitals won the special teams battle.
The Montreal penalty-kill has been trending up but there was a letdown late in the period when Vrana picked up the puck behind the net and found Tom Wilson in front.
There were three Canadiens around Wilson but none of them was in a position to stop the pass or prevent Wilson from jamming the puck under Carey Price. Washington failed to get a shot on goal on its first power play.
The Montreal power play not only failed to score on its first-period opportunity but the Canadiens were outshot 3-1 while enjoying the man advantage and Backstrom had a Grade A scoring chance when he had a breakaway coming out of the penalty box. Price looked like a contortionist from Cirque du Soleil while making the stop.
Jeff Petry opened the scoring before the game was two minutes old. He intercepted Tomas Tatar’s shot from the high slot and went to his backhand to beat Braden Holtby.
Washington started the second period on the power play after Phil Danault took a high-sticking penalty as the first period ended.The Canadiens managed to kill the penalty but Danault was getting back into the play when Travis Boyd slid a pass through the crease. The bounce went to the Capitals as the puck caromed into the net off Marco Scandella’s skate.