Jake Allen comes up big in net as Canadiens edge Capitals 3-2

Cole Caufield scored the winner 40 seconds into overtime and Washington captain Alex Ovechkin was contained to one assist.

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Perhaps Jake Allen should go 10 days between every start in the Canadiens net?

The veteran goaltender was huge in Montreal’s 3-2 overtime victory against the Washington Capitals on Saturday night at the Bell Centre. Allen stopped 31 shots — many dangerous — for an impressive .939 save percentage. Spectators were chanting his name in the third period and he was selected the game’s first star.

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And, perhaps most importantly, he thwarted Caps captain Alex Ovechkin, held to one assist despite directing five shots at Allen. Ovechkin, off to a slow start this season with two assists, was held without a shot in consecutive games for the first time in his career before Washington’s arrival in Montreal.

The Canadiens appeared in control of the contest, leading 2-0 well into the final period, before Dylan Strome scored both of the Caps’ goals, including the equalizer with 2:01 remaining in regulation time.

Cole Caufield, with his third goal this season, produced the winner 40 seconds into overtime on the Canadiens’ only shot.

“We’re going to be on the other end of that sometimes,” Allen said. “It’s a good league and mistakes happen. We’re going to learn from them, but we found a way to get this one done. It was a great shot by Cole. The guys played well.”

Canadiens' Johnathan Kovacevic (26) and Alex Ovechkin (8) of the Washington Capitals battle for position during the second period at the Bell Centre on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023.
Canadiens’ Johnathan Kovacevic (26) and Alex Ovechkin (8) of the Washington Capitals battle for position during the second period at the Bell Centre on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023. Photo by Minas Panagiotakis /Getty Images

Allen was making his second start this season, having last played in Montreal’s Oct. 11 season-opening 6-5 overtime loss at Toronto, when he wasn’t at his best. But there was no rust on the 33-year-old against Washington.

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Among his better stops was a two-on-one against Connor McMichael in the first period. He denied Nicklas Backstrom from the lip of the crease on a Washington power-play later in the period. Allen made a toe save on Evgeny Kuznetsov in the second and had some luck on his side as well — Sonny Milano hitting the post in the third. There was nothing Allen could do on either of Strome’s goals.

“I wanted to get off to a good start,” Allen said. “I felt my game in Toronto was one step. I want to try and keep making steps. It’s not going to be perfect all the time. It was important to have a good game (Saturday) and the guys responded well for me and played well. They played the right way. I know we let a couple in in the third there, but I think the game rewarded us for the way we played.”

While the Canadiens weren’t great on the power play, they did score once in six opportunities — the goal coming from Sean Monahan, his second this season, late in the first period. Brendan Gallagher scored his first goal of the campaign midway through the second.

The Canadiens also killed off five Caps’ power plays.

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Canadiens' Brendan Gallagher (11) celebrates his goal over Washington Capitals goaltender Darcy Kuemper in Montreal on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023.
Canadiens’ Brendan Gallagher (11) celebrates his goal over Washington Capitals goaltender Darcy Kuemper in Montreal on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023. Photo by Christinne Muschi /The Canadian Press

It was a typical Gallagher goal. Not only did he crash the net, converting a rebound, he actually ended up in the net after scoring. And he looked relieved skating back to the bench, as though a weight had been removed.

“I was just happy to score,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve played; it’s fun to score. It was nice to avoid the crossbar and nice to avoid the goalie. Thankfully, the puck went in.”

When he wasn’t talking about himself and his goal, Gallagher was singing Allen’s praises.

“He was very good,” he said. “He made some very good saves. There obviously was some good parts in our game, and there’s some stuff we have to work on. But he was fantastic tonight.”

While Canadiens captain Nick Suzuki is still seeking his first goal this season, he produced two assists, sending nifty passes to Monahan and Caufield on their goals.

Montreal head coach Martin St. Louis raised some eyebrows on Thursday when he admitted he wanted to see more from Suzuki, while quickly admitting he wasn’t concerned this early in the season.

“I don’t want to lie,” St. Louis said. “I know sometimes (the media) asks hard questions. I won’t lie. It’s not like I was saying something that he doesn’t think. I wasn’t doing that to spark (Suzuki). I’ll never use the media to spark my players.”

After taking only one minor through two periods, Washington took an incredible five penalties in the third, twice being left two-men short. Had the Canadiens scored on one of those advantages, it’s unlikely overtime would have been required. It also marked the second time this season Montreal has squandered a two-goal lead in the fiinal period.

The Canadiens concluded their three-game homestand with two victories, improving to 2-1-1. Montreal plays four games in six nights next week, beginning Monday at Buffalo.

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