With 19 seconds remaining in the game and trailing by one, Mike Green hit the right post flush and the puck gently came to rest underneath Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price, and the Washington Capitals' best chance to tie up a game they struggled in was whistled dead.
Two ensuing faceoffs provided no more help, and the Caps (13-5-4) fell 3-2 before a capacity crowd at the Verizon Center Friday night.
Washington played the final 1:52 on a power play, and much of the time played with a six-to-four man advantage.
"There was a lot of red out there," Price said about the last two minutes to the media after the game. "Especially when I lost my stick. I've got six players against four with no stick. That makes it pretty tough."
Tough, but obviously not impossible.
The Capitals found themselves down 3-1 midway through the third period due to an uneven, sometimes sloppy performance.
With several players wearing jersey numbers in the 70s and 80s, Washington resembled a traveling preseason squad.
Missing from the lineup were such regulars as Alexander Semin, Mike Knuble, Boyd Gordon, Quintin Laing, Milan Jurcina, Shaone Morrisonn and Jose Theodore. In were 21-year old Michal Neuvirth, 19-year old John Carlson and others that started the season in AHL Hershey, such as Mathieu Perrault and Jay Beagle.
It's no wonder the Capitals looked like a different team in the first period of the game. They are a different team.
"It's easy to rip on your players when you lose to a team that's below you in the standings," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said, "but I thought Montreal played a strong game. The biggest thing was I didn't think we were ready at the start of the game."
Regardless, you have to play with what you have, and tonight the Caps just weren't ready out of the gate, despite taking the early lead.
"We got the sense of urgency in the last two periods," he added. "Sometimes it's too late when the other goalie is on top of his game."
Eric Fehr struck with the only goal in the first period. After good forechecking by Perrault and David Steckel, Fehr beat Price with a rising wrist shot as Steckel skated right in front of the Montreal goaltender.
But Les Habitants registered the next three tallies, including two goals in 2:47 in the second period. There was a deflection and a bounce off a Capitals player, so youngster Neuvirth (19 saves) can't really be faulted too hard on either.
"He did what a starting pitcher is supposed to do," Boudreau said of the goalie, making his first start of the season. "He kept us in the game. And we didn't take advantage of it."
The Canadiens' last goal was a rocket by Mike Cammilleri on a questionable power play midway through the third period.
It was at that time the Caps woke up, but it was too little, too late.
Washington got its second goal off a terrific shot-pass from Green to Brendan Morrison, who then beat Price with a backhander as he skated through the crease, setting up the final two-minute flurry.
Despite the onslaught, the Caps never did get the equalizer.
There is no rest for the weary, though. The team loaded up for their charter immediately after the game for a 7:00 p.m. road faceoff with the woeful Toronto Maple Leafs tomorrow.
Hopefully, they find their legs earlier Saturday evening than they did Friday.
NOTES: Carlson made his NHL debut and acquitted himself well. He led the team in hits and rang a shot off the post in the first period in a bid for his first goal.
"I thought [he] played well," Boudreau commented. "He's going to be a good player in this league for a long time."
Defenseman Tom Poti left in the second period with an undisclosed upper body injury. He is listed day-to-day, and Boudreau indicated the team will call up another player for Saturday's game. This implies that Shaone Morrisonn, Milan Jurcina and Poti all will be unavailable.
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