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Brendan Gallagher scored the decisive goal in the fifth round of the shootout, which, intriguingly, did not feature Capitals star and three-time NHL MVP Alex Ovechkin until the fourth round.
Dustin Tokarski made 29 saves for the Canadiens, getting the start after Carey Price worked the 4-3 win over Toronto on Wednesday.
The Canadiens let the Capitals have the first 14 shots of the game and trailed 1-0 early, but Montreal pinned Washington on its heels in the third period with one goal that counted and two that didn't. Plekanec tied the game with 9:29 left in regulation, going high to beat Braden Holtby from the right circle.
The Canadiens thought they had evened the score about a minute earlier, but Rene Bourque was cited for goaltender interference to wipe out Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau's apparent goal. Then, with the score tied and 4:29 to play, Bourque's drive from the left circle was ruled a goal - until a video review found that the shot hit the right post without clearing the line.
Nineteen-year-old rookie Andre Burakovsky, the Capitals' latest experiment at second-line center, scored his first NHL goal in the first period. The 2013 first-round draft pick hit a one-timer from the slot on a feed from Troy Brouwer after Brouwer pilfered the puck off the stick of Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban near the Montreal net.
Burakovsky became the first Capitals player to score his first goal in his NHL debut since Ovechkin on Oct. 5, 2005.
Ovechkin had an active game, taking four shots on goal, drawing two penalties and getting credit for six hits as he returned to left wing after playing mostly on the right side under previous coach Adam Oates. However, Ovechkin wasn't among the first three Capitals in the shootout. When he did get an attempt, it was saved by Tokarski.
Holtby stopped 22 shots for Washington. He has been handed the undisputed No. 1 goalie spot by Trotz, the longtime Nashville Predators coach who was hired to get Washington back to the playoffs after the team sat out the postseason last spring for the first time since 2007.
NOTES: Among the scratches for Washington was D Mike Green, sidelined with an upper-body injury. ... The Capitals welcomed former favorites Peter Bondra, Sylvain Cote, Rod Langway and Craig Laughlin for the start of their 40th anniversary season. Langway recalled that the team's practice facility in the 1980s was in such a bad neighborhood that police had to watch the players' cars. He also called the old suburban Capital Centre one of the worst buildings in the league. The move to the downtown Verizon Center in 1997 and the drafting of Ovechkin in 2004 helped elevate hockey into the D.C. mainstream.
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