Caps’ power play breaks through in 3-1 win over Canadiens

Capitals winger Anthony Mantha high fives his teammates after scoring a goal

WASHINGTON — The Capitals picked up their first win of the season with a 3-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens that saw both their special teams units break through after a tough start to the 2022-23 campaign.

T.J. Oshie got the power-play unit to finally break through while Anthony Mantha and Conor Sheary lit the lamp as well. Darcy Kuemper put together a strong night in net behind a blue line that kept Montreal off-balance.

Here are three takeaways from the Capitals’ win over the Canadiens.

Line shakeups provide spark Caps needed

Looking for a way to get the Capitals’ offense in gear, head coach Peter Laviolette changed up the team’s top three lines and its power play units for morning skate Saturday. Washington had gone 0-for-9 on the power play over its first two games against the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs while its top six combined for just one goal.

Evgeny Kuznetsov had five shots on goal and no points to his name, so Laviolette moved him to the second line with Anthony Mantha and T.J. Oshie. Both players scored against the Canadiens and Kuznetsov made his presence felt, setting up Mantha with a wide-open shot from the slot that he fired past Montreal goaltender Sam Montembeault.

After trailing at the conclusion of the first period, the Capitals scored three goals in the second including their first power-play tally of the year. Oshie ended the drought, scooping up a loose puck on the rebound of an Alex Ovechkin shot and making a nifty move to find the open net.


Penalty kill keeps Caps in it early

On the other side of special teams, the Capitals were an unspectacular 4-for-6 in killing penalties with a goal allowed in each of their first two games. They changed that narrative around Saturday as well, allowing the Canadiens to get just four power-play shots off on three opportunities without generating a single high-danger chance all night.

Washington even managed to create a few shorthanded scoring chances, one of which left the puck in the Canadiens’ defensive zone long enough for Conor Sheary to get out of the penalty box and tap in a Nick Jensen pass for the score.

Even though the Capitals struggled on faceoffs all night, their penalty kill units made Darcy Kuemper’s night an easy one.

Kuemper picks up first Caps win

Playing in the 301st game of his career, Kuemper claimed his first victory with the Capitals on Saturday by saving 21-of-22 Canadiens shots against. Washington is the fifth team to win a game with Kuemper in net, joining the Minnesota Wild, Los Angeles Kings, Arizona Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche.

Montreal put some pressure on Kuemper early, but after a couple of flurries in the first 20 minutes he didn’t have to sweat through too many high-danger situations. The Canadiens managed just five shots on goal in the second period and, as mentioned above, never got going on the power play.

The Capitals didn’t win the game because of Kuemper,but he looked the part of the veteran goalie they hoped they were getting when they signed him to a five-year deal this offseason. The one goal he did allow came off the stick of center Nick Suzuki on a wraparound shot that Kuemper lost sight of until it was sneaking through his legs.

Washington hasn’t announced whether Kuemper will start in its next game against the Vancouver Canucks on Monday, but he has voiced his preference to handle a majority of the workload in net. Charlie Lindgren (.923 save percentage) looked solid in his Capitals debut Thursday.