It would have saved a lot of time and torment.
It wasn't until 46 minutes, 50 seconds had passed that a ricochet wound up beating Caps goalie Olie Kolzig and set the stage for a last-minute open-net goal that assured Montreal's 2-0 victory.
And Washington never did solve Montreal goaltender Patrick Roy, who made 33 saves for his 28th career shutout.
The first Montreal goal on a shot by defenseman Yves Racine was a good, strong outside blast on the Canadiens' sixth power-play opportunity, but if Washington defenseman Calle Johansson's stick hadn't gotten in the way, the puck may never have found its mark.
"I saw the puck coming," said Johansson. "I raised my leg. I was going to block it. I knew exactly where that puck was, but it hit my stick.
"Olie played really well and there were two goals -- one off me and the other in the net when he's not even on the ice."
As for Roy, said Caps coach Jim Schoenfeld: "Zero says it all."
After Montreal scored for the 1-0 lead with 6:50 gone in the third, the Caps came in waves at Roy. And with 6:17 to go, and Washington swarming the Montreal net, Peter Bondra lofted the puck past Roy for what looked like the tying goal.
But referee Lance Roberts disallowed the score, saying the whistle had blown, killing the play a moment before because of an interference penalty on Kirk Muller.
Bondra said he thought the whistle was early, and replay seemed to back him up, but Schoenfeld was more concerned about the overall picture than about any one situation.
The Caps have outshot three opposing teams, 92-56, and have just two goals to show for it.
"We did everything but cross the last 3 feet," Schoenfeld said. "We're just not scoring yet. But we've been through this before. I heard the same questions about the same situation when I got here last season and we worked that out and we'll get through this.
"We've dominated two of three games. We've got little to show for it, but we're real close. The key is to keep doing what we're doing and not get frustrated."
The loss dropped Washington's record to 0-2-1 as it heads home for tomorrow's home opener against the New York Islanders.
The win evened Montreal's record at 1-1, but for a long time it appeared this game would be a repeat of history. The only 0-0 game in Caps history came here at the Forum on Dec. 10, 1988, with Montreal's Roy and Washington's Pete Peeters in the nets.
And no one would have been surprised if this game had ended the same way.
Only yesterday, the Montreal Gazette's headline underlined the nervousness of Canadiens fans before this game: "Everybody take a Valium, There's no reason to panic, Canadiens insist."
The Canadiens were 0-1 after a 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. It was only one game in this 48-game season, but already the fans were upset at Montreal's lack of scoring and feared what they would see last night.
3 "The same song comes back year after year," said Montreal defenseman J. J. Daigneault. "No offense. We don't have the talent. We keep hearing the same things, but we seem to be doing all right year after year."
Though Washington failed to score, it wasn't because the Caps failed to go to the net.
The Caps were in there digging, but standing in their way was Roy, possibly the NHL's best goaltender. Washington's Dale Hunter, Dimitri Khristich and Bondra led a 33-shot attack, but Roy stonewalled them all, as nine Caps power plays came and went without success.
And at the opposite end, Kolzig was saving everything he had a chance at.
"It was almost a wonderful night expect for those three little letters, R-O-Y," said Kolzig, who was kept busier than his 15 saves would indicate.
Washington ... 0 .. 0 .. 0 .. -- .. 0
Montreal ..... 0 .. 0 .. 2 .. -- .. 2