WASHINGTON -- Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin was good. Goaltender Peter Budaj and the Montreal Canadiens were better.
Ovechkin scored his league-leading 18th and 19th goals of the season, but Budaj turned aside 25 of 27 shots to lead the Canadiens to a 3-2 win on Friday night at Verizon Center.
"We had a really good start, obviously," said Canadiens coach Michel Therrien, who saw his team jump out to a 3-0 lead. "They were pressing a lot in the third, but Peter was fantastic again." The Canadiens sprinted out to their early lead on goals by left winger Travis Moen, center David Desharnais and center Danny Briere, then had to hold off Ovechkin, who scored in the final minute of the first period and drew Washington within one goal with 7:33 remaining in the third period.
"They have great offensive power and a lot of skill up front with Ovi playing the way he is playing," said Budaj, who improved to 4-1-0 this season. "We got a big two points tonight."
The win was the second straight for the Canadiens (12-9-2), who have gone 4-1-1 since losing four in a row earlier this month.
The Capitals (12-10-1) lost for the second straight game. They have allowed 30 or more shots in 20 of their 23 games this season, most in the NHL.
"We talk about it every single day," Capitals coach Adam Oates said. "We made mistakes on coverage. You make mistakes in this league, you get burned."
The Canadiens carried the momentum of Tuesday night's 6-2 win over the Minnesota Wild into the first period, running out to a 3-0 lead.
It was the second straight bad start for the Capitals, who were trying to erase the memories of a lopsided 4-0 loss to the Penguins two nights earlier.
"Whatever we're doing right now isn't working," Capitals left winger Brooks Laich said. "We have to change something before the game so that we're prepared."
Moen got things started 8:53 into the game when he snapped a shot off Capitals goaltender Michal Neuvirth and behind him for his first goal in 47 games dating to last season. Center Ryan White started the play by stripping former Canadiens center Mikhail Grabovski of the puck at the blue line.
"It's always nice to get the first one," Moen said. "I think we're starting to get some chemistry now."
Desharnais made it 2-0 just three minutes later when he deflected a shot by defenseman Josh Gorges past Neuvirth. The Capitals argued that Desharnais' stick was above the crossbar, but after a video review goal stood for Desharnais' first of the season.
A roughing penalty to Capitals center Marty Erat put the Canadiens on the power play and Briere pushed the lead to 3-0 when he sneaked behind defenseman Alex Urbom and tapped in a backdoor shot for his fourth goal of the season.
"I don't know what to say about it," Erat said. "You finally get some push and then we take a penalty. It's bad for the momentum."
The Capitals received their own power play near the end of the first period when Alexei Emelin went to the box for cross-checking and Ovechkin capitalized with his league-leading 18th goal and eighth on the power play.
Ovechkin was at the bottom of the left wing circle when he surprised Budaj with a shot that found its way through Budaj's pads with 22.3 seconds remaining in the first period.
The Capitals failed to carry any of the momentum from Ovechkin's goal into the second period, getting outshot 14-3.
Budaj was not tested often, but he came up big midway through the period when he closed his pads on a breakaway attempt by Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom.
"I was glad that I was able to make the save to keep them in the game," Budaj said.
Ovechkin again got the crowd into it with 7:33 remaining in the third period when he deflected a point shot by John Carlson past Budaj for his 19th of the season, two more than St. Louis Blues forward Alexander Steen.
NOTES: Capitals D Mike Green returned to the lineup after missing the previous three games with a lower-body bruise. To make room for him on the 23-man roster, the Capitals assigned D Dmitry Orlov to the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League. Capitals D Steve Oleksy was a healthy scratch for the first time since Oct. 3. ... Washington C Mikhail Grabovski was selected by Montreal in the fifth round of the 2004 NHL draft. He played parts of two seasons for the Canadiens from 2006 to 2008, registering three goals and six assists in 27 games. In 29 games against his former team, Grabovski had five goals and 13 assists entering Friday night. ... Canadiens C David Desharnais played in his 199th NHL game. Montreal D P.K. Subban entered the game two assists shy of 100. ... The Canadiens return home to face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night at Bell Centre. The Capitals will head to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs on Saturday night. The Canadiens and Capitals will face each other again in Washington next Friday.