LANDOVER -- The Washington Capitals might have wondered what the Montreal Canadiens would be like without All-Star goalie Patrick Roy. They might have been worried, too, considering that the man for whom he was traded to Colorado, goalie Jocelyn Thibault, was named the NHL Player of the Week hours before last night's game.
Montreal more or less strutted into USAir Arena with Thibault boasting a .957 save percentage and a 1.33 goals-against average over his previous three games.
But when this one was over, the Capitals had blasted 41 shots at Thibault, secured a 4-0 shutout for goalie Jim Carey -- his second of the season -- and jumped into a sixth-place tie with Buffalo in the Eastern Conference and into fourth place in the Atlantic Division.
The Capitals did all this with even-strength goals from Peter Bondra and Steve Konowalchuk and power play goals by Bondra and Joe Juneau, while Carey kept the crease and the back of his net clean with a 20-save performance.
Carey did have a little help in preserving this one. Defenseman Joe Reekie cleared a puck off the stick of Montreal right wing Oleg Petrov and out of the crease with 5:33 to play, while Carey was busy recovering after denying Patrice Brisebois.
Carey's first shutout this season came Oct. 14 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Washington is 2-0 against Montreal this season.
Bondra's two goals were his 18th and 19th and put him among the league's top 20 goal scorers.
With about six minutes left in the second period, Dale Hunter's shot ricocheted off a Canadien and went backward. As the puck headed toward the neutral zone, so did four Canadiens, with only Calle Johansson and Carey between them and the Caps' net. That play started a back-and-forth battle. The four-on-one went unrewarded as Mark Recchi made a bad cross-ice pass that resulted in no shot.
Play then streaked to the other end, where Thibault stopped a breakaway by Kevin Kaminski. Back the other way they went, where Carey made a beautiful save on Brian Savage with 5:19 left. Carey's reward came a minute later, when he saw Sergei Gonchar get the puck to Bondra for some razzle-dazzle.
Bondra deked right, came back to the left, and left Thibault grabbing air while he put the puck high and into the back of the net for a 1-0 Washington lead with 4:19 to go in the middle period.
The goal capped a riotous two minutes of action that had the USAir Arena crowd of 16,403 on their feet and screaming. A few fans then chanted Thibault's name, just to rub it in on the 20-year-old goalie.
Thibault joined the Canadiens in a trade that sent Roy to Colorado on Dec. 6. In Thibault's 3-0 run, he beat the Hartford Whalers and Pittsburgh Penguins in back-to-back games, including a 1-0 shutout Saturday. For the week he had a 1.33 goals-against average and a .957 save percentage.
Reekie and Pivonka came the closest to scoring in the first period. Reekie blasted away at 8:17, forcing Thibault to scramble to cover.
NOTE: Caps C Stefan Ustorf was scratched, as was LW Kelly Miller, who continues to recover from a groin/stomach muscle pull.