Game 4, Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series (Caps lead series, 2-1)
April 21 vs. Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre
Time: 7:00 pm TV: CSN HD, TSN Radio: Caps Radio 106.7 FM, Fox 1370 AM, WFED 1500 and 920 and XM Listen:Mobile 1500 Streaming Radio Here | Online Player Here Pregame:Pre-Cap Podcast at 2 p.m. and Two-Man Advantage pre-game show at 3:00 p.m., both on www.washingtoncaps.com
Montreal Canadiens (39-33-10, 88 points)
Washington Capitals (54-15-13, 121 points)
Just a few days ago, the Capitals were less than two minutes from falling into an 0-2 hole in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series with the Montreal Canadiens. But after staging a thrilling comeback in Game 2 and hammering the Habs 5-1 in Monday’s Game 3, the Capitals have regained home ice advantage and now seek to put a chokehold on the set with a win in Game 4 on Wednesday.
Caps coach Bruce Boudreau made a pair of wise personnel moves that paid instant dividends in Monday’s Game 3 rout. Boudreau tabbed goaltender Semyon Varlamov for his first starting assignment of the series and he also re-inserted checking center Boyd Gordon into the lineup after scratching him in Game 2.
Varlamov stopped all 10 Montreal shots he faced in the first, weathering a Canadiens power play in the process.
“I didn’t realize [until] I was watching it this morning that they had so many good chances,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “Sometimes the score of the game masks how you play. We thought that at the end of the first we were doing a pretty good job, but they came close on about five really good chances to score. Varly was up to the task and played really strong in that period.”
“It gave us some confidence when you feel that your goalie plays well,” says Caps captain Alex Ovechkin. “He made some big saves and kept us in the game. It’s a big part of the game.”
Varlamov kept the Caps in the game, and kept the raucous Bell Centre crowd from getting any more involved. Early in the second period, Tomas Fleischmann went to the box for hooking. Gordon won a defensive zone draw to start the penalty kill, then raced to neutral ice after a loose puck when Tom Poti’s hard-around eluded Montreal defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron at the point. Gordon came in on Halak, shot, and then hammered at the rebound until it got past the Habs goaltender. Gordon then stayed out and helped kill off the first 56 seconds of the Washington penalty.
Instead of Montreal jumping on top with an early power play goal in the second, Gordon’s first career Stanley Cup strike gave the Caps their first opening salvo of the series.
Washington would add three more in the second period to chase Halak and salt the game away.
Gordon finished the night with five shots on goal and 13 wins if 15 face-off tries (87%).
The Caps also shut down Montreal’s top six forwards, who had combined to score eight goals in the first two games of the series. Andrei Kostitsyn scored the Habs’ lone goal of the night on the power play, but he and linemates Mike Cammalleri and Tomas Plekanec eash finished with an unsightly minus-4 next to their names on the game’s official scoresheet.
Although the Caps canceled out Montreal’s power play goal with Gordon’s shorthanded tally, Washington failed to score on the power play for the third time in as many games in this series and the fifth straight game, dating back to the regular season.
Washington went 0-for-7 with the extra man in Game 3 and is 3-for-31 (9.7%) on the power play in seven games against the Habs this season. The Caps’ power play ineptitude prompted Boudreau to remark, “We suck,” in regards to his team’s extra-man unit.
“I think with what we’ve got on our team in skills and what we can do, we have to score on the power play at 50 percent, I think,” says Ovechkin. “Maybe less. In three games we have had chances on the power play. But they blocked the shots, we didn’t play very well, we didn’t move and we didn’t do our job.
“Bruce was right. It’s a terrible power play.”
The Caps held an optional practice at Bell Centre on Tuesday, and only blueline partners Joe Corvo and Shaone Morrisonn did not take the ice. Morrisonn missed the entire third period of Game 3 and may be nursing an ailment of some sort.
Having scored 10 of the last 12 goals in the series, and having chased Montreal netminder Jaroslav Halak to the bench midway through Game 3, the Caps have now saddled the Habs with a goaltending quandary of their own. Montreal coach Jacques Martin must now decide whether to come back with Halak for Game 3, or go with Carey Price.
After stopping 54 of the first 57 shots he faced in this series, Halak was hammered for eight goals on the next 40 shots he faced. Price stopped 21 of the 23 shots he saw in a Game 3 relief appearance.
Montreal suffered through some disciplinary lapses in the second period, too. Center Scott Gomez, who ranks among the NHL’s top 10 among all active players in playoff scoring, excused himself from the proceedings for 10 minutes in the middle frame when he took a misconduct penalty. That call came on the heels of a Brian Gionta cross-checking minor.
Just a bit later in the second, Plekanec was whistled for interference but compounded the sin when he barked about the call and incurred an additional minor for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Notes: Washington is the first team in the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs to lead by as many as four goals in a game, and the Caps’ four-goal winning margin is the largest for any team in the playoffs to date … Three games into the Stanley Cup playoffs, only three Washington skaters have yet to record a point: Alexander Semin, Shaone Morrisonn and David Steckel. Steckel has played in just two of the three games … Montreal has now lost five straight playoff games on Bell Centre ice.