WASHINGTON – Alex Ovechkin scored his 699th career goal, closing in on another milestone, but the Washington Capitals dropped their third in a row, losing to the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 in overtime Thursday night.
Ovechkin fired up the crowd by scoring in seven minutes in and came close to reaching 700 goals on a bang-bang play in the third period. Instead, he’ll have to wait to become the eighth player in NHL history to get to 700.
Washington has lost five of its past six games and seven of 10, falling out of first place in the Metropolitan Division. The Capitals are also 1-4-1 at home since the All-Star break.
Ben Chiarot scored his second of the game 58 seconds into 3-on-3 OT to win it for Montreal.
Goaltender Braden Holtby allowed goals to Shea Weber, Brendan Gallagher and two to Chiarot on 32 shots, but wasn’t chiefly responsible for the loss. The same defensive woes that plagued the Capitals over the past several weeks came back to haunt them against the Canadiens.
Montreal got two breakaways in the opening minutes and could’ve had a multi-goal lead if not for big saves by Holtby, who continues to play well. There wasn’t much he could do on Weber’s goal through traffic, Gallagher’s in front or Chiarot’s go-ahead goal 30 seconds into the third when the defenceman had plenty of time to shoot the puck off the crossbar and in.
Veteran defenceman Brenden Dillon, brought in to help fix some issues, was on the ice for two Canadiens goals in his Capitals debut after a trade Tuesday from San Jose. He was paired with Norris Trophy contender John Carlson, who turned the puck over seconds before Chiarot’s goal.
Washington’s Tom Wilson tied it with 20.1 seconds left in regulation.
The Canadiens snapped a five-game skid and won for the first time since Feb. 8. Price stopped 29 of the 32 shots he faced, and Gallagher was arguably the best player on the ice and had a hand in all three of his team’s goals.
NOTES: Lars Eller scored his sixth goal in 12 games against the Canadiens since they traded him to the Capitals. … Center Evgeny Kuznetsov returned to Washington’s lineup after missing three games with an upper-body injury. … Capitals forward Brendan Leipsic was a healthy scratch for the first time this season amid a 33-game goal drought. … Canadiens defenceman Xavier Ouellet left early in the first period after a hit by Garnet Hathaway and did not return because of an upper-body injury. … Montreal forward Brendan Gallagher came back after missing a game with a lower-body injury. … Victor Mete was out of the Canadiens lineup after taking a shot to the foot Tuesday at Detroit. Coach Claude Julien expects Mete to be out the rest of the week.
Canadiens: Visit the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night.
Capitals: Ovechkin goes for history at the New Jersey Devils on Saturday afternoon.
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno