MONTREAL (AP) - Forsaking their wide-open, high-scoring ways of recent seasons, the Washington Capitals now take pride in shutting down their opponents.
Braden Holtby made 18 saves for his second shutout, Marco Sturm and Alexander Semin scored, and Washington sent the Montreal Canadiens to their third straight shutout loss with a 2-0 victory Saturday night.
Holtby, recalled from Hershey of the AHL earlier in the day, faced little offense from Montreal, which had not been held scoreless in three straight games since Oct. 23-29, 1949.
Washington played its third straight game without injured captain Alex Ovechkin. The Capitals have won 14 of 17 and are second overall in the Eastern Conference with 98 points, two behind Philadelphia.
``I think for most of them now it's fun to win by not allowing the other team to score, whereas last year it was fun to win because we scored six goals,' Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. ``If we'd get up 5-1, it would end up 6-4, and they weren't upset about it, but now they get upset when they get scored on so it's a big difference.'
Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom assisted on both goals, including Sturm's fifth of the season 1:24 in.
``It's always really important, especially here in this rink, to get the early lead and get the crowd a little bit quiet,' said Sturm, who scored his first goal in 13 games with Washington, which acquired him on waivers from Los Angeles on Feb. 26.
Semin got his 26th goal with 3:41 to go in the game when he put away Backstrom's centering pass to finish off a two-man break.
``Nobody's really having much fun right now,' said Carey Price, who stopped 31 shots.
Montreal, which has been outscored 11-0 over the course of its three-game losing streak, is now tied for sixth place in the East with the New York Rangers, who also have 87 points.
``Those teams are coming up and we can't get scared and start gripping our sticks even more because that's not going to help,' Price said.
The Canadiens, who lost 7-0 in Boston on Thursday and 2-0 to Buffalo on Tuesday, have been held without a goal for just over 186 minutes since Sunday, when they had their highest-scoring game in three years in an 8-1 win in Minnesota.
``It's just a matter of us not doing the things we have to do,' Canadiens captain Brian Gionta said. ``It's easy to point to offense for not scoring but it's a reflection of our overall game right now.'
Price was at somewhat of a loss to explain Montreal's inability to score any goals lately.
``I think we just used them all up in Minnesota, but we've just got to get back to basics and we can't dwell on this,' he said. ``We've just got to pick our heads up and know we can do it.'
Shut out for the 10th time this season one night earlier in Ottawa, the Capitals struck early to take a quick 1-0 lead.
Backstrom drove the right side and fired a shot that Price stopped. The rebound dropped into the slot where Sturm whacked a low shot past the Montreal goalie.
Outshot 12-3 in the first period, the Canadiens fared little better the rest of the way as Washington held a 14-8 advantage in the second and 33-18 overall.
``That's all the credit to the way we came out and we were prepared, and luckily they didn't put much of a push because we were sticking to our game plan very well,' said Holtby, whose last start for the Capitals was a 4-2 victory in Montreal on March 15 for his fifth straight win, and Washington's ninth in a row.
The 21-year-old rookie got the nod over Semyon Varlamov, who made his first start in 15 games in Friday's road loss to the Senators.
``He did a great job because he looked like he was in control,' Boudreau said.
NOTES: Pedro Martinez and John Wetteland were among a number of members of the 1994 Montreal Expos who took in the game from a luxury box. ... Capitals G Michael Neuvirth did not dress because of an illness that prevented him from making his scheduled start in Ottawa on Friday. ... C Tom Pyatt, D Yannick Weber and D Alexandre Picard did not dress for Montreal. ... The Canadiens were shut out in four consecutive games from Feb. 14-21, 1928.
The Associated Press News Service
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