Loss: 5-6 (OT)
Habs Goalie: Halak (L)
Opposition Goalie: Theodore, Varlamov (W)
Habs goalscorers: Gionta, A. Kostitsyn (3), Plekanec
Opposition goalscorers: Fehr, Backstrom (3), Ovechkin, Carlson
This was a game full of interesting plays. Had the Canadiens won, there were probably even defensive plays to choose from. The play of the night, considering the result, was Plekanec's goal in the end. It was a play full of skill, of patience and of teamwork. The play really starts as Plekanec chases a loose puck into the zone. Blocking a clearance and controlling it in one swoop was clutch play at its finest. Cammalleri never doubting his centre was there to take the pass, sell the shot and produce the sublime control that allowed him to keep the puck long enough to pass to the lingering Plekanec. After Andrei's hat trick, this was the icing on the cake for the one-time first line. More clutch play from other teammates might have made this goal more significant.
Gionta played his usual solid game up front. Kicking off with a goal a minute into the game was key to the Canadiens self-belief in this one, and it's no surprise that it was Brian to score, given his reputation for being a sparkplug from the opening whistle. Over the game he grew quieter, but still found ways to shoot. In addition he killed some key penalties while getting his miniscule frame in front of several Caps shots.
Three goals, well two and a quarter. This was the game of a goalscorer. Over the night, I thought he was the quietest on the top line, yet with that shot was probably always the biggest threat. His first goal was a thing of beauty and one could see the confidence he took from it. If nothing else, his hat trick gives Boudreau something serious to think about as he attempts to deal with Montreal's threats with a big and sometimes lumbering defence.
Mike Cammalleri – Game Puck
I thought that in this game Cammalleri did the most things right of any Hab. The game ended with him recording three assists, and he really did play a major role in two of those key goals – Kostitsyn's second and Plekanec's play of the game marker. In addition, Mike was able to draw a couple of penalties (one for a PP with a goal), which I think has been a real deficiency of late, even all season with the Canadiens. He was charged with a penalty as well, but I'm never sure how intact sticks are when they break under some slashes that are penalized.
One of the main reasons that Markov may not have stood out as he could have, but he played a good game. But where I have praised Martin for getting his players to buy his plan, I must chastise him for not knowing what he has in Markov. When the alternatives are struggling, one would hope the coach would turn to Andrei. Instead he limits his ice time at ES, presumably because he wouldn't be so foolhardy as to play #47 any more than he had to. This is thinking of very limited scope, and I'd like to see Markov play with other partners (Spacek, Gorges) to get him into the fray more.
Josh Gorges, the epitome of steady can be counted to mark off games for Spacek and Hamrlik. When they falter, we prefer Josh for the dome. While I wouldn't go to the lengths that some do to praise Josh, I think he offers lots of lessons for his comrades. His simple approach, his quick anticipation, his measured time on the puck are all the stuff of winning defence.
Halak had one of those games. 4-3 up, Halak was sitting on many saves to rival the game puck. While Washington didn't pepper the Habs goalie with as much rubber as in Game #1, they still let loose a few shots of quality requiring some alert rebukes. But we cannot overlook the saves he didn't make in this game, particularly the final two Washington goals. Good shots or not, he has to look more like saving a shot to his trapper side from Backstrom on both occasions, else we risk falling as we did to the Flyers in 2008. I wouldn't be altogether surprised if the next start goes the way of Carey Price after this display, and I wouldn't bat an eyelid. If nothing else, Carey has impressed me immensely with his new mature comment as the reliever interview and I think that maturity would carry into the net. I wouldn't say Halak has lost his right to play again, but as the Caps can be so unforgiving to netminders, sharing the brunt might be the way to go anyway.
Welcome to the playoffs Montreal. Apart from obvious trips, pucks over the glass, fights, broken sticks and too many men, the rules have been altered. The most significant alteration to the rules of play seems to be the complete reversal on goaltender interference. More frightening is that Washington has taken note.
I am not embittered after this loss, as it really wasn't down to the refs in the end. The unstoppable force want goals and it made them. However, I hope the Canadiens start to see the light of day with this new lenience, else get left behind. For one thing, they must stop collapsing so close to their own goal, I think, because at the moment they seem only to make themselves implements for moving Halak. Also, it might not hurt to move Varlamov or Theo at some point, that way the net might come off for a valid reason.
We must also realize that we just witnessed a tour de force from two of the top scorers in the league. When the Caps went down, Ovechkin and Backstrom awoke and took the bull by the horns.
I have to say I am encouraged in a lot of ways by this effort from Montreal as well. The forwards producing the way they did spells a turn in the tide, and a very welcome one. The defence was perhaps not as great as in Game #1, but had good periods of play. The loss in the end was caused by a few breakdowns, but Halak on most other nights would not have done his best Aebischer impression. Encouraging also were the post-game interviews in which the positivity I seem to cling to was held by many of the players reached for comment. Cammalleri in particular had lots of good points to take and several players called it a good game – which it was.
It's a cliche to say the Habs should be happy to come into Montreal with a series tied at one. I am not going that far. But they need to be positive about a few things. First, they have shown they can win a defensive battle, even when entrenched for periods in their own zone. Second, they have shown they can win an offensive battle. If Washington ever thought they'd ride their 121 points for a few more wins, they must now know they are in for a fight, Montreal-style. To have Cammalleri, Plekanec and Kostitsyn there ready to take part is something I look forward very much to watching.