WASHINGTON -- Center Mikhail Grabovski scored to force overtime and then produced the winning goal in the shootout to lift the Washington Capitals to a 3-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Friday to snap a four-game losing streak.
Things started poorly for Washington before the puck dropped. Goaltender Michal Neuvirth limped off the ice during warm-ups with what the team called a lower-body injury. That forced Braden Holtby into an emergency start just minutes before the game got under way.
It looked as if the Capitals were headed for another loss, trailing 2-1, when right winger Eric Fehr fired a shot on goaltender Peter Budaj late in the third period. Fehr lost his stick, and after scrambling to pick it up and shift it to his right hand, fired a pinpoint pass to Grabovski, who ripped a shot past Budaj to draw Washington even at 2 with 5:32 left.
The loss ended Montreal's five-game winning streak, which included a 3-2 victory over the Capitals on Nov. 22.
Center Daniel Briere started the scoring for Montreal after the Canadiens killed off back-to-back penalties, poking his own rebound through Holtby's legs with 4:40 left in the first period to give Montreal a 1-0 advantage. Two of Briere's five goals this season are against Washington.
The Capitals labored to produce offense early, going more than 16 minutes without a shot in parts of the first and second periods, but the Capitals received a gift to draw even.
Budaj misplayed a puck behind his net, Grabovski corralled it and found wide-open Fehr for an empty-net goal to make it 1-1 with 14:43 left in the second period.
Just 67 seconds later, however, the Canadiens would break the tie when a three-on-one opportunity led to center Tomas Plekanec depositing a pass from Brian Gionta past Holtby for the 2-1 lead.
Both goalies played well. Budaj stopped 24 shots. Holtby had 35 saves to remain undefeated against the Canadiens in four career starts.
NOTES: Washington video coach Brett Leonhardt acted as the backup goalie. It's the second time that Leonhardt has been pressed into emergency duty. The other time was in 2008 while working as the team's web producer. ... Capitals C Brooks Laich was scratched from the lineup with a lower-body injury and replaced by RW Jay Beagle. Washington coach Adam Oates hopes Laich will be back on the ice for Saturday's game at the New York Islanders. ... Friday's game starts the sixth set of back-to-backs this season for Montreal, who will play on Saturday at Toronto. The Canadiens are 3-2-0 in the first game and 3-2-0 in the second game of the back-to-backs. ... Capitals RW Alex Ovechkin entered Friday's game with 44 points in 38 career games against Montreal. ... After playing on consecutive Fridays in Washington, the teams don't meet again until the series finale on Jan. 25 in Montreal.