Series (Game 3 of 4)

Washington leads 2-1

Game 1: Saturday, January 25th
Game 2: Sunday, February 9th
Game 3: Monday, February 24th
Game 4: Tuesday, March 25th

Canadiens 1

(24-26-7, 62 pts)

Capitals 4

(29-25-3, 68 pts)

7:00 PM ET, February 24, 2003

Verizon Center, Washington, District of Columbia

1 2 3 T
MTL 0 0 11
WSH 1 1 24

P. Bondra (Capitals - RW): Goals: 1, Assists: 1

I. Ciernik (Capitals - RW): Goals: 1, Assists: 1

O. Kolzig (Capitals - G): Saves: 25, Save Pct.: .962

Capitals snap three-game losing skid

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Washington Capitals stopped a losing streak by simplifying their defense.

Peter Bondra and Ivan Ciernik each had a goal and an assist as the Capitals snapped a three-game skid by beating the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Monday night.

"This time of year, when you give up scoring chances, it can be crucial,'' Washington forward Jeff Halpern said. "When you play in a system with three guys back, maybe four, it limits their chances on the rush.''

Jaromir Jagr and Steve Konowalchuk also scored for the Capitals, who had lost four of five. Bondra scored for the first time in eight games and tried to shake off the slump.

"You have to put pressure on yourself to score -- it's my job,'' Bondra said. "But things don't always go well for you.''

Jan Bulis had the goal for Montreal, which has dropped four straight -- matching a season-high -- and five of six.

Washington's defense, which surrendered 14 goals during the losing streak, clamped down on the struggling Canadiens. Olaf Kolzig, who allowed 11 goals in two games, was rarely challenged despite Montreal's 26-18 edge in shots.

"They didn't shoot a lot tonight, but had a lot of scoring chances early,'' Montreal goalie Jose Theodore said. "They seemed to get the right goals at the right time. I can do more. As a team, we can't be satisfied with being average, starting with the goalie.''

Washington increased its lead in the Southeast Division to three points over Tampa Bay.

Capitals coach Bruce Cassidy hopes the Capitals will embrace the new defensive scheme because it's the same strategy that helped the team gain a point in 14 straight games in December and January.

"We're going to find out,'' he said. "It's what we're looking for, what we've been looking for. I think we can because we did it six or eight weeks (ago).''

The Capitals took a 1-0 lead when Ciernik scored from the right circle on a 2-on-1 break 9:08 in. Ciernik's sixth goal came off a cross-ice pass from Michael Nylander.

Jagr made it 2-0 early in the second period. When Dainius Zubrus' left-wing slap shop caromed off the right post, Jagr converted the long rebound at 2:22.

Bondra extended the lead 2:41 into the third. Bondra skated down the left wing and ripped a slap shot from the top of the circle past Theodore.

Bulis scored his 14th goal on a goal-mouth scramble with 7:09 left after Niklas Sundstrom's shot ricocheted off the crossbar.

The Capitals went up 4-1 when Konowalchuk chipped in a centering pass from Mike Grier with 5:02 left.

Game notes

The Canadiens didn't get their first shot on goal until 8:45 elapsed. ... Capitals LW Kip Miller was scratched because of a sore hand. ... Montreal D Patrice Brisebois was activated from the injured list after missing eight games due to stress-induced arrhythmia. ... Zubrus earned his 200th career point. ... The Canadiens had been on a 4-0-1 streak against Washington. ... Montreal D Stephane Quintal was helped from the ice after tripping behind the net on Konowalchuk's goal. He sustained a hamstring or groin injury and will be re-evaluated Tuesday.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press