Canadiens 3, Capitals 2, OT
They were just fine with that—and so was goalie Cristobal Huet.
“Of course with a minute remaining you’re going to have to start thinking about it but I’m lucky, I didn’t face him,” Huet said after Koivu scored his first goal in more than two months to give the Canadiens a 3-2 overtime victory over the Washington Capitals on Thursday night.
Koivu, who extended his points streak to five games earlier in the game, broke in alone on Olaf Kolzig and put a backhand past the Washington goalie with 57.4 remaining in overtime to end his 23-game goal drought.
“I thought I had it jammed between my body and the glove,” Kolzig said. “I didn’t see it and I thought I was going to hold it long enough for the whistle and then all of a sudden I saw it trickle in. The puck didn’t go my way on that play.”
The Montreal captain hadn’t found the back of the net since Jan. 28, when he scored twice—including the overtime winner—in a 4-3 victory in Toronto.
“I thought about shooting because the ice was really bad at that point,” Koivu said. “I was really tired at the end of my shift and Kolzig’s a very big goalie and covers a lot so I thought about just making a quick move to the side and try to find some open net. Lucky enough, it went into the net.”
Ovechkin earned his 45th assist when Ben Clymer scored at 18:37 of the second to tie it at 1. Ovechkin ended a three-game goal streak and remains two goals short of becoming only the fourth rookie to ever score 50 goals in a season, and first since Anaheim’s Teemu Selanne set a rookie record of 76 with the Winnipeg Jets in 1992-93.
“We played very well, but we had lots of penalties,” Ovechkin said.
Washington center Jeff Halpern scored a power-play goal with 2.5 seconds remaining in regulation to tie it after he was involved in an odd play off a faceoff that led to Montreal taking a 2-1 earlier in the third.
“At the time it was a great feeling, tying the score up,” Halpern said. “It’s always fun. It’s a fun building, it’s a fun atmosphere and it gave us a chance to really silence the crowd, if we had pulled it off in overtime or a shootout.”
Montreal rookie Chris Higgins scored his second of the game 8:23 into the third, taking advantage of Kolzig’s puckhandling mistake.
Higgins jumped on a loose puck to Kolzig’s right and put it into a wide open net just 3 seconds into Montreal’s ninth power play of the game when the Washington goalie mishandled a pass back to him from Halpern off a faceoff in the Capitals’ zone after Brian Willsie was sent off for hooking at 8:20.
“I obviously felt horrible because our penalty killing was doing a heck of a job tonight and Halpern did a great job in winning the faceoff,” Kolzig said. “I give the guys a lot of credit for digging down and getting it back for me at the end of the game.”
Huet made 27 saves for Montreal, which remained tied with New Jersey and Tampa Bay for sixth place in the Eastern Conference. The Canadiens have won five straight.
Ben Clymer scored his 15th late in the second for Washington, which had won two in a row and claimed five of a possible six points in its last three games (2-0-1).
Koivu assisted on Higgins’ first goal of the game, which put the Canadiens up 1-0 midway through the second.
Outshot 17-7 in the first, the Capitals battled hard, killing five penalties in the first and three more in the second while outshooting Montreal 10-7 in the period.
Higgins connected for the third straight game to open the scoring at even strength 11:29 into the second. The Smithtown, N.Y., native has scored five goals over that stretch and 19 this season.
Hall of Famer Mike Bossy became the first rookie to score 50 goals in 1977-78, finishing his first season with the New York Islanders with 53 goals. Florida’s Joe Nieuwendyk scored 51 as a rookie with Calgary in 1987-88. … The Canadiens have sold out each of their 35 home games this season.