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Washington Capitals return from break, extend win streak to seven

By
Harvey Valentine, The Sports Xchange
Washington Capitals defenseman Nate Schmidt (88) battles for a loose puck against the boards with Montreal Canadiens left wing Daniel Carr (43) in the first period at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. on December 26, 2015. Photo by Mark Goldman/UPI
Washington Capitals defenseman Nate Schmidt (88) battles for a loose puck against the boards with Montreal Canadiens left wing Daniel Carr (43) in the first period at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. on December 26, 2015. Photo by Mark Goldman/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON -- A four-day Christmas break did nothing to derail the streaking Washington Capitals.

Jason Chimera had a third-period goal and added an assist, goalie Braden Holtby made 29 saves and the Capitals defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 on Saturday night for their seventh straight win.

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Center Evgeny Kuznetsov and right winger Jay Beagle also scored for Washington (26-6-2), which is 14-1-1 over its last 16 games.

"Any time you have a break, it can go different ways," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "Us, we had a successful run at the end and we just wanted to come out and extend it."

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The third period was scoreless until Chimera outskated Montreal defenseman Alexei Emelin for a loose puck and then lifted a shot past goalie Mike Condon for his 10th goal of the season.

"I don't think I've ever seen Chimmer skate so fast -- and that's saying a lot -- because he blew right by their guy on that goal," right winger Tom Wilson said. "That was pretty fun to watch."

Wilson and defenseman Nate Schmidt had two assists apiece as Washington won a battle of Eastern Conference division leaders headed in opposite directions.

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Left winger Daniel Carr scored for the Canadiens, losers of six straight and 10 of 11.

"It's not like we're getting slaughtered. We're doing a lot of good things, but I can't stress this enough, it's just that little extra push that we need to have," Montreal left winger Max Pacioretty said. "No one's going to feel sorry for us if this keeps going."

Montreal (20-14-3) has managed just six goals in its last six games.

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"We're looking, offensively, way too much for the perfect play with no results. We stayed way too much on the outside with no results," Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien said. "We need to make sure to put our nose in the kitchen and pay the price a little bit more."

The team's power-play struggles continued as well, as the Canadiens are 2 of 33 in their past 11 games.

Condon finished with 30 saves.

Washington improved to 18-0-0 when leading after the second period.

The Capitals failed to cash in on several scoring chances in the opening three minutes but took a 1-0 lead at 6:45 of the first period.

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Kuznetsov successfully fought for position in front of the net and deflected Schmidt's shot past Condon for his 11th goal of the season. During his first full season with the Capitals in 2014-15, Kuznetsov scored 11 goals in 80 games.

"We need to come in this room after the first period and not be in a hole, that's the truth," Pacioretty said. "If we're not scoring goals, we can't get scored on."

Washington doubled its lead just 90 seconds into the second period when Beagle took a pass from Wilson near the left circle and fired a wrist shot over Condon's shoulder.

Just 24 seconds later, Montreal answered as Carr poked home the rebound of defenseman Andrei Markov's shot to make it 2-1.

Those were the only goals during a period in which the teams combined for 34 shots on net.

The Canadiens outshot the Capitals 9-5 in the third period but didn't come close to putting one by Holtby in the final 20 minutes.

"I don't think any of us really know we've won seven in a row," Holtby said. "We expect a win every night. We try and prepare in a way that gives us the best chance to do that. That's just our mindset."

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NOTES: The Capitals improved to 21-0-5 all time when Jay Beagle scores a goal. ... Montreal is in the midst of a season-long, seven-game road trip that continues Sunday at Tampa Bay. ... The Capitals recalled D Connor Carrick from Hershey of the American Hockey League. He was a scratch along with RW Stanislav Galiev. D Brooks Orpik (lower-body injury) missed his 20th game this season. ... The Canadiens were without G Carey Price (lower body), RW Brendan Gallagher (hand) and D Tom Gilbert (lower body). D Greg Pateryn and RW Sven Andrighetto were scratches. ... Montreal C Lars Eller played his 400th NHL game.

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