Washington Capitals right wing Alex Ovechkin (8), of Russia, celebrates after his goal in the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Montreal Canadiens, Friday, Nov. 22, 2013, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
WASHINGTON - After David Desharnais had scored his long-awaited first goal of the season, after his team had taken a three-goal lead that prompted Washington Capitals coach Adam Oates to call out his veterans, and after Alex Ovechkin had scored twice to take the solo lead among NHL goal-scorers, there was still a lead for the Montreal Canadiens to preserve in the closing minutes.
And, for a few hectic seconds, Peter Budaj had to do it without his stick.
The Canadiens goaltender lost his stick in a crowd while the Capitals were pressing in the offensive zone. He started to reach down and pick it up, but everything was happening too fast. Finally, he used his pads to stop a close-range shot from Martin Erat and smothered the puck with about three minutes remaining, and Montreal held on for a 3-2 win Friday night.
"You feel kind of naked without it," Budaj said. "They had a couple of shots, but the guys, they knew that I had lost the stick and they were blocking shots, and then they had one from the corner there. I wanted to pick it up but then I was, like, I might as well not. I don't want to be getting scored on while I'm looking at the stick. I've just got to focus on the puck."
Budaj finished with 25 saves in place of usual starter Carey Price, and Travis Moen and Daniel Briere also scored for the Canadiens, who have won two straight thanks to a resurgence of Desharnais and linemate Max Pacioretty. Desharnais assisted on two of Pacioretty's three goals in Tuesday's 6-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild.
Desharnais' struggles had attracted the attention of Montreal's new mayor, who suggested on Twitter earlier this month than the forward be sent to the minors. Desharnais finally scored when he perched in front of the net to redirect Josh Gorges' drive, a goal that stood after a video review to determine whether it was scored with a high stick.
It was part of an outburst in which the Canadiens netted three goals on their first 12 shots, putting the Capitals in a 3-0 hole on the heels of their 4-0 drubbing by rival Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
Ovechkin scored on a late first-period power play and again in the third period to give him 19 goals, two ahead of Alexander Steen of the St. Louis Blues, but that wasn't enough to appease Oates, who emphasized a video review over on-ice practice after the Penguins loss.
"You know what? When you go on a losing streak, you always end up saying the same thing," Oates said. "Tomorrow morning on the video I will show the same stuff, I know it. ... Tonight I'm a little bit more mad at some of the older guys, to help the young kids out. We all watch our shifts, we all watch video, we have a simple formula, and when we don't do it, (the opponents) get chances."
NOTES: Michal Neuvirth stopped 28 shots for the Capitals as both teams went with their backup goaltenders, with Neuvirth subbing for Braden Holtby. ... Washington D Mike Green was activated from injured reserve and played after missing three games with a lower body injury. ... The Capitals reassigned D Dmitry Orlov to Hershey of the AHL. ... Wayne Gretzky was a guest in Capitals owner Ted Leonsis' box.
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