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Holtby, Capitals blank frustrated Canadiens

- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 26, 2011

MONTREAL | It looked to be the right mix for a rough night for the Capitals: They were playing the second half of back-to-back games on the road against a team coming off a seven-goal loss. That’s not to even mention the electric crowd on "Hockey Night in Canada" at Bell Centre.

But instead it was one of the Caps' stronger efforts of late as they shut Montreal out 2-0 behind another strong defensive effort and just enough scoring to finish the road trip with a 4-2 record.

Braden Holtby picked up his second career shutout and finished with 18 saves, but he didn't see a whole lot of sustained pressure from the Canadiens – a product of defense that has become the cornerstone of the Southeast Division-leading Caps.

"They made a bit of a push in the second period, but other than that they didn’t really get much," Holtby said. "I don't know what's going on, but I think it was more a credit to us. We stuck to our system all game, we forechecked as best as you can, and I think that was the main reason why they didn’t get many opportunities."

A lot of this victory for the Caps was about taking advantage of a frustrated Montreal group that now hasn’t scored in 186:05. The last time the Canadiens were shut out in three straight games? October 1949.

Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said this was as good a defensive game by his team as it has had lately. Still, there's something to be said about the Canadiens' week snowballing.

"It's frustrating when you're playing at home and you haven't scored and you try so hard and it doesn't work,” Boudreau said. “That’s what we were worried about was one of their guys that hadn’t scored got a goal early, 'cause when that happens, they usually get two or three."

Instead, Marco Sturm scored his first with the Caps just 1:24 in off a rebound of a Nicklas Backstrom shot. It was really the only goal that could be held against No. 1 star Carey Price, who made 31 stops against Washington.

But it was hard for Montreal to dig out of that hole, and the Caps were able to execute their game plan of dumping pucks in deep. In fact, they managed to do everything right that was wrong in Friday night's loss to the Senators.

"We came out with a lot more energy this game than against Ottawa," Backstrom said. "All the guys were into it – we worked their D, we got the puck deep and we had a lot of scoring chances."

When it was over, there were a lot of missed opportunities, including an 0-for-4 night on the power play. But other than that it's hard to pick out problems from this Caps performance in a hostile environment at Bell Centre.

"It’s always nice to get the early lead, especially in this building, keep the fans a little bit more quiet than usual," Sturm said. "We should've scored a second one a little bit earlier, but you know what – we battled pretty hard, [Holtby] was big in net and we got the big win."

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