MONTREAL -- The Washington Capitals can't stand too much of a good thing.
They came into Montreal last night off a shutout in Quebec to play a Canadiens team that had dropped two in a row.
But instead of continuing to dominate on this trip, the Capitals had another letdown and again fell below .500, losing 3-1.
The team was to continue on to Miami last night and prepare for the final game of this three-game trip against the Florida Panthers tomorrow.
With Rick Tabaracci in net, trying to redeem himself from a disastrous performance against the New Jersey Devils Friday (four goals on 18 shots), the Capitals played an emotionless first period and followed that with an energetic but unproductive second. That left them behind 2-0 before anything clicked against Montreal goaltender Patrick Roy.
"We had a lot of opportunities in the first period," said Capitals coach Terry Murray. "Peter Bondra had a great chance on a breakaway to put us in the lead. But when you find yourself killing penalties, you have no flow and you establish no forechecking. After killing three penalties in nine minutes, we're still trying to get our legs. But that's the way it goes."
The Caps appeared to be making a game of it 10 seconds into the third period. After several players tried a number of rocket shots in the second, Dimitri Khristich put a soft slider past Montreal defenseman Lyle Odelein and between Roy's legs to make it 2-1.
It was Khristich's first goal since Jan. 2.
The rally didn't last long, however. With 15:42 to play, Tabaracci was caught outside the crease on a collision with Montreal's Kirk Muller, and Gilbert Dionne put the puck in the net behind him.
"I went out to protect the point, and someone took my legs out from under me," said Tabaracci. "It happened three times in the first period, but the ref never called it. Once the guy, whoever he was, took me down, there was no way for me to get back in time to cover the puck."
Tabaracci made 32 saves, and Roy was challenged by 26 shots and stopped 25.
"We were still in the game at 2-1, even at 3-1," said defenseman Kevin Hatcher. "But the bottom line was we didn't score our chances. We had chances, good chances. We stayed patient and got them. But we didn't score when our chances came."
"We do make a lot of goalies look pretty good," Bondra said. "I had a big chance, but I did not take a good shot, and the goalie didn't even have to make a good save. If I score it, it is totally different game."
Bondra's attempt came with 16:40 to play, and he took his shot from right in front of Roy. But the puck hit Roy and bounced harmlessly away.
Seven minutes or so later, Hatcher was called for cross checking and Montreal's Eric Desjardins scored on the power play.
"It's always a tough game when we get down early," said Tabaracci. "We keep going at it, but we've got to look at this first-period thing. It's not been our strongest this year, and we've got to be conscious of that."
Montreal took a 2-0 lead when Vincent Damphousse scored 1:56 into the second period. Canadiens left wing Brian Bellows was able to out-muscle Hatcher to make the pass on a two-on-three rush, and Damphousse got the shot away under the stick of John Slaney.
NOTES: With everyone healthy, Murray had to sit someone out last night. But the choice of RW Keith Jones raised some eyebrows. Jones, whose total of 11 goals is one shy of of last season's total, leads all Washington scorers in two games against the Canadiens this season. . . . RW Alan May and D
Shawn Anderson also were scratched.