- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 29, 2008

Several hundred Montreal Canadiens fans ventured into Verizon Center on Friday night, and they made their feelings about former Habs goaltender Jose Theodore known.

Boos could be heard when he was announced as the Washington Capitals‘ starting goalie, and then there were a couple of derisive “The-o” chants when the Canadiens controlled the puck on a power play early in the game.

Theodore silenced his former fans with a sterling performance - turning aside all 28 shots he faced to lead the injury-depleted Caps to a 3-0 victory against one of the top contenders in the Eastern Conference.

“It means a lot because they didn’t want him,” said Donald Brashear, who like Theodore grew up in the Montreal area and played for the Canadiens. “He did a good job when he was there, and he showed tonight that he is a very competitive goalie.”

Added coach Bruce Boudreau: “He was fabulous. He was square to the puck, no big rebounds, and the saves there in the second period for a series of about five minutes were pretty dazzling.”

The Canadiens, who suffered their first shutout loss of the season Friday, drafted Theodore in the second round of the 1994 draft. He spent parts of nine seasons with the team, but his tenure didn’t end well. Montreal traded him to Colorado in March 2006.

He played against Montreal once with the Avalanche and allowed eight goals on 36 shots in an 8-5 loss in October 2006.

“Last game [against Montreal] was not a fun game, but I’ve almost played 500 games, so I can turn the page,” Theodore said.

A great play from Tomas Fleischmann gave the Caps the only goal of the first period. Fleischmann intercepted a breakout pass from Montreal defenseman Francis Bouillon right in front of the Canadiens net. He and Michael Nylander worked a nifty give-and-go, and Fleischmann scored his ninth goal of the season at 11:03.

That total is one shy of the total he had in 75 games last season and puts him third on the team behind Alexander Semin and Alex Ovechkin.

Washington nearly made it a 2-0 lead in the second period when Ovechkin and Viktor Kozlov broke in on Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak on a two-on-one, but Halak turned aside Kozlov’s one-timer.

Theodore was the standout in the middle period. The Caps didn’t possess the territorial advantage the way they did in the first 20 minutes, and the Canadiens had several great chances.

After one sequence when Theodore made two great kick saves to stop deflected shots, the Caps fans behind him gave him a rousing standing ovation.

“The fans were great - I think we could see that they were really loud and into the game,” Theodore said of the Caps’ second straight sellout and fourth of the season. “It was just a good vibe.”

Ovechkin made it a two-goal lead early in the third period. After Nicklas Backstrom worked the puck into the left corner, Ovechkin retrieved it and skated at the left post before tucking the puck between Halak’s legs at 3:42 for his 13th marker of the season.

Later the Caps had a five-on-three for 1:42 and didn’t capitalize, but David Steckel redirected a point shot from Sami Lepisto shortly after the penalties expired for a three-goal advantage at 8:46.

The injury-riddled Caps had center Boyd Gordon back in the lineup after he missed one game with back spasms, but they were without stalwart defenseman Tom Poti, who missed the contest with a groin injury.

To replace Poti, the Caps signed Hershey captain Bryan Helmer to an NHL contract and recalled him. The 36-year-old had 134 games of NHL experience but hadn’t played in the league since April 2004. To make room for Helmer on the roster, the Caps sent forward Graham Mink back to the American Hockey League affiliate.

But for the second straight game, the Caps - despite missing one-third of the regular lineup, including three of their top four defensemen - mustered enough to maintain their lead in the Southeast Division.

“You have to give credit to the guys who were called up,” Brashear said. “I think if we had a bunch of losers in here you would have heard [excuses]. If we had lost, maybe that would have been the comments from other people, but not in this room. We believe in the guys we have in here.”

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