The Washington Capitals stormed out of the gates, going up 2-0 midway through the first period. But the home-standing Montreal Canadiens scored three straight goals in the second and third periods and looked to be controlling the game.
But Eric Fehr snuck a rebound attempt underneath Carey Price with 11.4 seconds remaining with the Caps playing six-on-four, and Nick Backstrom beat Price with a snap shot in the third round of the shootout to lift the Caps over the Canadiens, before a raucous, sellout crowd at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
Things got off to an encouraging start for the Capitals (15-5-6). Fehr and Alex Ovechkin scored 1:12 apart in the first period to take a serious 2-0 lead, and minutes later, Ovechkin came in alone on a breakaway on Price. The "Great Eight" put a quick deke on the netminder and went to his forehand, but Price was equal to the task, keeping his team in the game long enough to get them started.
Montreal (12-12-2) answered pretty quickly in the second period. With Jay Beagle in the box for a "light" tripping penalty, Jaroslav Spacek landed a blast from the point to cut the deficit in half at 5:40.
Ten minutes later, Tomas Plekanec lifted a backhand past Semyon Varlamov (21 saves on 24 shots) after a scrum in front of the net. Plekanec got behind Karl Alzner in the confusion, but it was a hiccup in the rookie's otherwise terrific game, just his second of the season. In 16:57 of total ice time, he had an even rating, and assisted on Fehr's first goal, when his shot from the point was redirected by Fehr short side against Price.
Montreal took the lead at 5:34 of the third, with Travis Moen getting credit for a tip-in of Marc-Andre Bergeron's booming slap shot from the point. The goal came at the end of a power play, one where the Caps played over a minute down two men. They killed off the five-on-three, but long their energy just at the end of the shift to give up the big shot.
Things looked bleak in the dwindling minutes of the final frame. Price came up huge on several occasions, but he himself almost made the fatal mistake. With less than two minutes remaining, he tried to clear a puck along the boards, but sent it right to the tape of Brendan Morrison.
The veteran pivot put the shot on net, but Price got just enough of it to push it out of the goal.
The Caps would get the last, best chance though. With Varlamov off for the extra skater at the 1:30 mark, Washington got good pressure on the Montreal net. At 19:44, Paul Mara was whistled for high-sticking, giving the Caps an offensive zone draw.
Nick Backstrom got tied up on the draw, but turned his body into Plekanec and kicked the puck back to Mike Green at the point. He sent the puck across the rink to Ovechkin at the opposite point, who unleashed a blast that Price turned away.
But Fehr was in the right place at the right time, and slid the puck just underneath Price for the equalizer.
Overtime was scoreless, then both goalies stopped the first two shooters in the shootout. Varlamov then stoned Plekanec after the Canadien went way wide and then tried to go short side, but the young Russian netminder got his left pad down to close the door.
Backstrom then got his chance, and he did not disappoint. He went straight at Price, and fired a snap shot stick side that left the goalie defenseless.