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Canadiens drop Caps to 0-3 for 1st time since '93

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Canadiens drop Caps to 0-3 for 1st time since '93

WASHINGTON (AP) Andrei Markov's resurgence continued with a goal and an assist, and the Montreal Canadiens cruised to a 4-1 win Thursday night over the Washington Capitals, who are 0-3 for the first time in nearly two decades.

Finally healthy after twice tearing the ACL in his right knee, Markov was part of a second-period spree in which the Canadiens scored in all sorts of ways against a Capitals team that is out of sorts. In order, Montreal's goals came 5-on-3, 5-on-4 and 5-on-5 in a little over 6 minutes to take a 3-0 lead.

Tomas Plekanec, Brian Gionta and Josh Gorges scored for the Canadiens, and Carey Price made 30 saves. Montreal, the worst team in the Eastern Conference a year ago, has won two straight under new coach Michel Therrien since opening the season with a loss to Toronto.

The Capitals also have a new coach teaching a new system, and he is having a much harder time getting his players in gear after a compressed training camp in the lockout-shortened season. Adam Oates' team has been outscored 14-6 through three games, with seven of the opponents' goals coming on power plays.

Joey Crabb's goal with 2:23 to play was the lone goal for the Capitals, and two-time NHL MVP Alex Ovechkin remains without a goal on the season. Oates shook things up by putting Wojtek Wolski on the first line with Ovechkin, and the two ran into each other in the offensive zone in the first period. Michal Neuvirth made his first start of the season in net, but he had a realistic chance to stop only one of the four Montreal goals.

The result was frequent booing throughout the game for the Capitals, who are 0-3 for the first time since dropping six straight to start the 1993-94 season.

Washington also ended a six-game winning streak against Montreal and lost in regulation to the Canadiens for the first time since Nov. 20, 2009.

Markov has three goals on the season, helping to mitigate the absence of Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, who is a restricted free agent and has yet to come to terms on a new contract.

Markov supplied the assist on the game's first goal, sliding the puck to Plekanec during a two-man advantage while Ovechkin and Troy Brouwer were in the penalty box.

Markov put in an easy rebound to make it 2-0 during a power play just 63 seconds later.

The third goal came after a classic defensive lapse. Three Capitals chased the puck into the corner, leaving Gionta alone in front of the net to receive a pass from Rene Bourque.

Josh Gorges made it a four-goal lead late in the second period.

Notes: Washington hasn't been shut out by Montreal since 2008, but the Capitals have shut out Montreal five times during that span. ... Matt Hendricks, who got into a fight in Washington's previous game to try to give his team a boost, was at in again Thursday, tussling with Montreal's Brandon Prust in the third period.

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Follow Joseph White on Twitter:http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP

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3 reasons the Caps lost to the Canadiens

3 reasons the Caps lost to the Canadiens

The Caps battled through the rust on Thursday to earn a point in New Jersey. On Friday, rust cost them yet again as they fell 3-2 to the Montreal Canadiens.

Here's why they lost.

4 shots on goal in the first period

Canadiens goalie Antti Niemi has had his struggles this season. Yes, he has played better since getting claimed off waivers by Montreal, but getting to play against Niemi instead of Carey Price wass a golden opportunity for the Caps to generate some offense. Washington, however, had very little offense to speak at the end of the night. How did they respond with Niemi in net? By getting only four shots in the first period. Four. They finished with 26 shots on goal for the game, but had they come out swinging in the first and put pressure up early on Niemi, they could have gotten a much different result.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FOR CAPS-HABS

Bad passing

After the game, Lars Eller said "It was one of the sloppiest games we've played if not the sloppiest. I don't think we've given up so any odd-man rushes or chances in one game." In no aspect were the Caps more sloppy than with their passing. Here are just a few examples.

A cross-ice backhand pass in the defensive zone? Really? You are not going to be successful trying to make those type of plays and it cost the Caps. They could not maintain possession of the puck or breakout of their zone and it led to several odd-man rushes for Montreal.

Rust

It's not an excuse. The Caps should have played better on Friday regardless, but there's no arguing the fact that rust was a factor. It was abundantly clear that the Caps were out of sync. That will happen when you are playing on the second leg of a back-to-back with no practice time.

Saturday's practice will be absolutely critical since Washington faces a matinee game on Sunday, their third contest in four days.

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3 stars of the game: Grubauer's heroics not enough against the Habs

3 stars of the game: Grubauer's heroics not enough against the Habs

The first time the Caps hosted the Montreal Canadiens this season, Alex Ovechkin tallied four goals as the Caps dominated in a 6-1 thrashing.

Friday's game featured considerably less offense as Montreal just managed to squeak by Washington 3-2.

Philipp Grubuaer got the start and did everything he could to keep Washington in it, but the Caps struggled to find much offense.

Alex Ovechkin did manage to register assist No. 499 as he set up John Carlson on the power play and Lars Eller scored late, but it would not be enough for the Caps to come back.

Here are the three stars of the game.

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1. Max Pacioretty: The Canadiens struggled to get anything past Grubauer in this one, but Pacioretty finally did in the second period on the power play. It was simple enough, he found the puck at his feet, turned and shot.

When goalies start to frustrate teams, we see a lot of players respond by looking for the perfect play and give up good opportunities for more difficult passes. Pacioretty was smart, he just shot. He also added an assist on Paul Byron's goal as the puck bounced off the board and off Pacioretty's skate right to Byron.

He ultimately put the exclamation point on the win with an empty-net goal as well to complete a three-point night.

2. Philipp Grubauer: Grubauer certainly didn't look like a backup goalie in this one. He was strong in net all night long, but his best save came in the first period. Pacioretty hit the side of the net to Grubauer's left on a pretty passing play, but the puck bounced out to the slot and Charles Hudon passed it over to Paul Byron on Grubauer's right. Grubauer dove with his arm outstretched and managed to corral the puck into his body to keep it out of the net.

He would finish the game with several more fantastic saves, 23 in all despite the loss.

3. Andre Burakovsky: It would be hard to draw up a better return to the lineup for Burakovsky.

He started on the fourth line, but he wasn't there for long. He had four shot attempts in a first period in which the Caps struggled to get anything going offensively at all. He also had a breakaway opportunity in the third period as he came out of the penalty box. He had Antti Niemi beat, but hit the post.

It was the second time Burakovsky struck iron in the game. Hedid just about everything right, but just couldn't light the lamp.