Pacioretty scores 2 as Habs hold off Capitals to break 3-game skid
Antti Niemi makes 24 saves to win battle of backups
Two nights after Montreal Canadiens coach Claude Julien criticized his team's effort, the Canadiens made sure that didn't happen again.
On Wednesday, Montreal lost 4-1 in Julien's return to Boston, where he had long coached the Bruins. Against the Washington Capitals on Friday night, Julien had no complaints as his team broke a three-game losing streak with a 3-2 win.
Max Pacioretty had two goals and an assist, and Paul Byron also scored for the Canadiens. Antii Niemi, playing in place of Carey Price, who had been in goal for eight consecutive games, stopped 24 shots.
"We were all pretty disappointed in ourselves," Byron said of the loss to the Bruins. "We wanted to give Claude a better effort than that — especially going back to Boston. We wanted to play better for him. Unfortunately we didn't play a good game, and we wanted to rebound tonight and have a really big effort."
Julien knows how difficult the rest of the season will be, but for one night, he liked what he saw.
"We couldn't let that Boston game affect us tonight, but we had to learn from it, and I think the guys showed that they ready to bounce back from it, and I'm proud of them for the effort," Julien said.
"We've got a real mountain to climb to get back in the playoffs, and we realize it's going to take a lot of wins."
The Canadiens face the Bruins again in Montreal Saturday night, and they have a hot scorer in Pacioretty, who was pleased with how his teammates rebounded.
"It was a much better game," Pacioretty said. "That's a great way to respond as a group."
John Carlson and Lars Eller scored for the Capitals, and Philipp Grubauer finished with 23 saves.
Pacioretty, who has six goals in the last six games, scored Montreal's first goal at 7:08 in the second period and added an empty-netter with 1:18 remaining in the game.
Byron's 13th of the season, midway through the third period, put the Canadiens ahead 2-1.
The Capitals, who returned from a five-day bye with an overtime loss at New Jersey on Thursday night, have lost back-to-back games for the second time this season.
"We had too many guys still on vacation," Trotz said. "They outworked us. They outbattled us.They honestly could have had seven goals tonight."
Montreal took a 1-0 lead when Pacioretty scored just 14 seconds into a power play at 7:08 in the second period.
Washington tied it on a power-play goal of their own when Carlson's slap shot at 13:24 of the second beat Niemi. Carlson has six goals this season - three on power plays. Alex Ovechkin received his 499th career assist on the goal.
Eller closed the scoring in the final minute. He was critical of his team's game, too.
"Lack of respect of the way we should play without the puck," Eller said. "Too much cheat and not enough attention to detail. Just sloppy. One of the sloppiest games I've seen us play — if not the sloppiest."