WASHINGTON - Right winger Eric Fehr and center Mikhail Grabovski are beginning to develop the kind of chemistry that great linemates often possess, and it's starting to pay dividends for the Washington Capitals.
Grabovski and Fehr played a huge role in the Capitals' 3-2 shootout victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Friday that snapped Washington's four-game losing streak, each tallying a goal and an assist in regulation.
"He's a pretty easy guy to play with," Fehr said of Grabovski. "He protects the puck so well, hangs on to it and lets you get open. You don't feel like you have to help him very often. He's done a great job and he's really helped me feel a lot more comfortable out there."
It looked as if the Capitals were headed for another loss, trailing 2-1 late in the third, when the pair struck. Fehr fired a shot on goaltender Peter Budaj, 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.
Grabovski stepped up again in the shootout. With both teams having scored twice and getting stopped once, Grabovski beat Budaj again for his third game-deciding goal of the season.
"We talk all the time about the way to win games in this league right now," Washington coach Adam Oates said. "It's really difficult. You saw that. You've got to grind it out. You've got to be willing to grind it out. The second half of the game, I guess we did a better job of doing that."
The loss ended Montreal's five-game winning streak, which included a 3-2 victory over the Capitals on Nov. 22.
"I thought we played well enough to win the game," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "I'm disappointed we came up short, but I believe the effort was there. When you go to a shootout, you never know."
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's not as bad as it seems because first, you have adrenaline that kind of automatically gets your head into the game," Holtby said.
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.
"I tried to play it up and I hit Grabovski's stick," Budaj said. "It was my bad. That's a tough, tough goal, especially because we were playing well and I was feeling good. Just a bad play on my part."
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. Oates hopes Laich will be back on the ice for Saturday's game at the New York Islanders. ... Friday's game started 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.