WASHINGTON -- When the NHL lockout ended, many believed teams with first-year coaches would have the most difficult time getting out of the gates.
On Thursday night in front of a restless crowd at Verizon Center, Michel Therrien's Montreal Canadiens looked like a team hitting its stride, while Adam Oates' Washington Capitals continued to stumble. Both coaches are in their first season.
The Canadiens rattled off four straight goals in the second period, including power-play tallies by veterans Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Markov, and rode the goaltending of Carey Price (30 saves) to a 4-1 win.
"He's been phenomenal since Day One," Therrien said of Price, who has started all three games for the Canadiens. "He reported (to camp) in great shape. He gives us a huge chance every night to win the hockey game, and he's playing terrific for us."
Price lost his shutout bid with 2:23 remaining in the third period when Joey Crabb scored his first goal as a Capital.
The Canadiens are now 2-1-0 under Therrien, while Washington is off to an 0-3-0 start under Oates. It's the worst start for the Capitals since 1993, when they opened with six consecutive losses.
"Embarrassing is almost the right term right now," Capitals right wing Troy Brouwer said. "Pathetic is probably a better one.
"I feel bad for the fans. I'd like to finish a game with at least 50 percent of the fans still in the stands. Their reaction is completely warranted, booing us."
The Canadiens blew the game open with a four-goal second period featuring tallies by Plekanec, Markov, Brian Gionta and Josh Gorges. But Gionta said it was all the little things that added up to the Canadiens' second victory in three games. Ten different players blocked a total of 19 Washington shots.
"That's what we want our identity to be," Gionata said. "Full team effort, making those sacrifices. We had a couple big (penalty) kills, (defenseman Alexei Emelin) had a couple big blocks on those kills, too. That's what we want our identity to be."
Montreal entered the game with three power-play goals in their first two contests, and in a span of just 57 seconds, it added two more to grab a 2-0 lead.
With Alex Ovechkin (interference) and Brouwer (delay of game) in the penalty box, Plekanec gave the Habs a 1-0 lead 3:47 into the second period when he snapped an Markov feed past a sliding Michal Neuvirth, who was making his first start of the season.
Sixteen seconds after Brouwer was released from the box, Capitals left winger Matt Hendricks was called for goalie interference. Markov made Washington pay at the 4:44 mark, making it 2-0 when he hammered the rebound of Max Pacioretty's shot from the left circle into the gaping net.
The goal was Markov's third of the season, and the power-play goal was the seventh allowed by the Capitals in their first three games.
"Things haven't been going our way," Oates said. "The team's probably a little fragile, and we gave them a 5-on-3 goal, which right away took the wind out of our sails a little bit."
The Habs scored their first even-strength goal of the game at the 8:39 mark, this time on a 2-on-2 rush by Rene Bourque and Gionta.
Bourque used a burst of speed down the left wing to get a step on Washington defenseman John Carlson. When Karl Alzner left his defensive position to help Carlson, Bourque found Gionta alone on the slot for a tap-in.
The Canadiens completed their four-goal spree with 1:39 remaining in the period when Gorges blasted a high-rising shot from the right point over Neuvirth's glove. It was the fourth goal on 11 shots for the Canadiens in the period, and they cruised the rest of the way.
NOTES: The Capitals fell to 13-3-2 against the Canadiens in the past 18 meetings. Washington went 4-0-0 vs. Montreal last season. ... The game featured three of the NHL's top 11 active point producers from the Czech Republic. Washington defenseman Roman Hamrlik ranks fifth with 638 points, while Montreal defenseman Thomas Kaberle ranks sixth (560) and forward Plekanec ranks 11th with 365 points. ... Left wing Brandon Prust played in his 201st straight game, the longest active streak on the Canadiens. He led the NHL in fighting majors last season with 20, and he dropped the gloves with Hendricks in the third period Thursday. ... Bourque has a history of bad blood with the Capitals. On Jan. 3, 2012, he threw a blatant elbow to the head of Nicklas Backstrom, knocking Backstrom out of the next 40 games with a concussion.