Saturday, April 17, 2010
Well the Washington Capitals certainly didn't make it easy on themselves or their fans but were able to come from behind to beat the Montreal Canadiens 6-5 in overtime Saturday to even the series at 1-1. Nicklas Backstrom got the game-winning goal just 31 seconds into overtime where he beat Jaroslav Halak high on the glove side for his 3rd goal of the game.
Questions concerning Alex Ovechkin and his lack of presence in Game 1 were answered when Ovie had a goal and added 3 assists helping his team to vicotry. Though he impacted the scoresheet, Ovechkin struggled to get open and place shots on net at first but stepped up his physical presence, immediately contributing to his team's success when coming back from a 4-1 deficit late in the 2nd period. When asked about the adjustments made to his game, Ovechkin stated that he felt more comfortable in this game and stressed the mental importance of the win for his team heading into Game 3.
The Caps outshot the Habs for the second consecutive game, 37 to 24, seemingly solving Montreal's net-minder by beating him high. Caps' starting goaltender Jose Theordore was chased early in the 1st period, surrending goals on the game's first two shots. Semyon Varlamov relieved Theodore and stopped 19 of the 22 shots he faced.
By going up 2-0 early, the Canadiens were able to set the tone and play their game aimed at frustrating the Captial forwards by getting their sticks in shooting lanes and clogging up the center of the ice in their own zone making it difficult for shots to get through. In the offensive zone, the Canadiens focussed on keeping pucks deep and in the Washington corners, much like we saw in Game 1.
Defensive play by the Captials continues to be an area of concern, particularly for Mike Green, where several goals were scored because of his soft plays on the puck. On Canadian forward Andrei Kostitsyn's second goal, Green did not do a good enough job getting back to the net after he was caught out of position on a failed attempt to clear the zone, then did not engage Kostitsyn who was planted in front of the net and scored off of a feed from Mike Cammelleri. When Montreal took the lead late in the 3rd period, Green had a chance to clear the puck to the boards as Cammerlleri and Plekanec we're pressuring, but made a soft play on the puck which allowed Plekanec to move the puck over to Cammelleri then failed to tie up the stick of Plekanac who had an easy tap-in when he got the return feed from Cammelleri. I would hate to be Green during his video meeting.
Washington Head Coach Bruce Boudreau has a tough decision to make when considering who will start in Game 3 on the road in Montreal Monday night. Theodore was drafted by the Canadiens in 1994 and was with the team until the 2005-2006 season so with the hostility he's likely to face by the Montreal crowd and with the mental impact of Saturday night's performance, starting Varlamov doesn't sound like a bad idea.
Despite the worries on the defensive side of play, the Captials' offense seems to have ignited which was the main reason for their success in the regular season. The mental impact this game had on the Canadiens after leading for much of the hockey game remains to be seen but expect even more physicality and grit in Game 3 especially if Glen Metrpolit is back in the lineup for Montreal.
The game can be seen on Versus Tuesday night at 7pm et.