Price Check – Montreal netminder Jaroslav Halak stopped 54 of the first 57 shots he faced in this series, but was dented for eight goals on the next 40 shots sent his way. Carey Price stopped 21 of 23 shots in a Game 3 relief effort, but he was racked for four goals on 36 shots in Wednesday’s Game 4, a 6-3 Washington win.
With the Caps now holding a commanding 3-1 lead in the series and Game 5 set for Friday night in Washington, Canadiens head coach Jacques Martin is now faced with the dilemma of which goalie to go with in a must-win game, Halak (4.07 GAA and .887 save pct. in the series) or Price (4.00 GAA and .898 save pct.).
Caps coach Bruce Boudreau has no such dilemma. For the second straight game, Caps goaltender Semyon Varlamov was the game’s No. 1 star. Varlamov stopped 36 of the 39 shots he faced – including 20 of 21 in the middle period – to earn his third straight victory without a loss in the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs.
The 21-year-old Russian rookie was brilliant throughout the night, flashing the athleticism and the quick glove hand that led the Caps to choose him with the 23rd overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
Montreal played as good as it can play for 40 minutes, and it was only good enough for a 2-2 tie at that point. For the second straight game, checking center Boyd Gordon played a key role in fueling the Washington offense.
With the Habs leading 2-1 late in the second, Caps defenseman Tom Poti fired a clearing attempt down the ice. Montreal defenseman Roman Hamrlik got a stick on the puck, and the disc wobbled into neutral ice instead of rolling the length of the ice.
Gordon corralled the puck and skated down the left wing, with Mike Knuble driving the net on the right side. Gordon fed Knuble perfectly, and the veteran winger deposited it into the cage for a shorthanded goal – the Caps’ second in as many nights – that evened the game at 2-2 with just 6.3 seconds left in the second period.
"I think it was a pretty big goal," says Caps captain Alex Ovechkin. "We played great short-handed, and Gordo, what can I say about him? He's a hard-working guy, and when he makes a play like this, it means a lot for our team."
Gordon scored a shorthanded goal of his own in Game 3, the Caps’ first goal of the game and the first of four for Washington in the second period of that contest. Knuble’s Game 4 shorthanded goal let all the air out of the Montreal balloon.
The Caps outshot the Habs 20-6 and outscored them 4-1 in the final frame. Ovechkin’s second goal of the night came at 11:09 of the third and it broke a 2-2 deadlock. Jason Chimera scored less than a minute later to all but do the Habs in.
Driver’s Seat – Washington holds a 3-1 Stanley Cup playoff series lead for the first time since it went up 3-1 on the Buffalo Sabres in the 1998 Eastern Conference Final series. The Sabres won Game 5 of that set at Verizon Center to send the series back to upstate New York, but Joé Juneau’s overtime goal won Game 6 for the Capitals in Buffalo, propelling the team to its first – and thus far, only – Stanley Cup final appearance in franchise history.
Road Warriors – After finishing the 2009-10 regular season with the best road record in the NHL, Washington has won two straight road games to start the playoffs. This marks the sixth time in the Caps’ franchise history that the team has won successive games on the road.
The last time the Caps took two straight road tilts in the playoffs was when it took two straight over the Lightning in Tampa Bay to start the 2003 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. The Caps dropped four straight games to exit the playoffs following those two road wins at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Hot Stuff – Ovechkin has now scored in three straight postseason games, tying the longest playoff scoring streak of his career. He has 19 goals in 25 postseason games and has scored 15 playoff goals in his last 15 games.
Linemate Nicklas Backstrom is also on fire. With five goals, he is tied with fellow Swedes Henrik Zetterberg of Detroit and Mikael Samuelsson of Vancouver for the NHL lead in goals. Backstrom is second in playoff scoring with nine points and he is tied with Poti for the league lead at plus-8.
Washington’s top line of Ovechkin, Backstrom and Knuble has combined to total 11 goals, 22 points and a plus-20 in the four games in this series. The Habs’ entire team has just one more goal than the Caps’ top line.
Multiple Men – Ovechkin and Knuble each scored twice on Wednesday, notching the second and third multiple-goal games for the Capitals in the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Short Stuff – Knuble’s shorthanded goal was his first playoff goal as a member of the Capitals. It was his ninth career goal in Stanley Cup playoff competition, and his first while his team was a man short.
Positive Touch – Backstrom was plus-4 in the game and is now plus-8 in the 2010 playoffs. Washington defenseman Tom Poti was plus-3 for the night; he is also plus-8 during the playoffs.
Lineup Change – Washington made a change in its blueline alignment for Game 4, the first adjustment it has made in the series. Shaone Morrisonn did not play; he was listed as a healthy scratch. Tyler Sloan got his first taste of postseason action this spring in Morrisonn’s stead, recording a pair of hits in 15:55 of work on the night.
Not So Special – The Caps finally netted their first power play goal of the series when Ovechkin scored at 8:10 of the first period. Washington’s power play is now is 3-for-29 (10.3%) in the team’s last eight playoff games.
The Capitals’ postseason penalty kill has also struggled. Washington has allowed at least one power play goal in each of its last 10 playoff games, going 32-for-45 (71.1%) on the kill during that stretch.
Even It Up – Washington is now 15-15 all-time in Game 4, and it is 8-8 when playing Game 4 on the road.
Canadiens Can’t Keep Cool – Since taking a 4-2 lead into the third period of Game 2 in Washington last Saturday, the Habs have displayed a decided lack of discipline in each of three games.
Montreal center Scott Gomez lost his cool early in the third period of Game 2, inviting Caps defenseman Tom Poti to fight with a quick sucker punch jab while the Habs were still leading the game.
Canadiens forward Tomas Plekanec took an unsportsmanlike conduct minor in Game 3 for disputing a penalty call, and Gomez was assessed a 10-minute misconduct for similarly flapping his gums in the same game.
Price lost it twice in Game 4, incurring an unsportsmanlike conduct call after Jason Chimera scored Washington’s fourth goal and another after Backstrom iced it with a late empty-netter. Price angrily flipped the puck at the celebrating Capitals after Chimera’s goal and hacked Backstrom with his stick when the Caps’ center skated past the Montreal bench after the game’s final goal.
Six-Pack – Montreal’s Game 4 loss was the sixth straight postseason setback on home ice for the Habs.
Since posting a 10-1 record on home ice on their way to the 1993 Stanley Cup championship, the Canadiens have won only 13 home games in 13 postseason series. Montreal is now 6-13 on home ice in its last half-dozen playoff series.
Missing Man – Canadiens defenseman Jaroslav Spacek sat out Game 4 because of an unspecified injury. Blueliner Ryan O’Byrne replaced Spacek, getting his first taste of postseason action in 2010. O’Byrne skated 13:05 and led the Habs with seven hits on the night.
Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Habs forwards Mike Cammalleri, Tomas Plekanec and Benoit Pouliot each posted a minus-6 in the two Bell Centre games. Defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron was a minus-3 in Game 4 and is a minus-8 for the series. Gomez and Gionta were both minus-3 in Game 4.
Happy Birthday – To former first-round pick and short-time (two games) Cap Miika Elomo, born on this day in 1977. To ex-Caps forward Mark Lofthouse, born on this day in 1957. And to ex-Caps defenseman Stewart Malgunas, born on this day in 1970.
By The Numbers – Ten different Capitals have scored goals in this series … Montreal outhit Washington 10-7 in the first period of Game 4, marking the first time in the series the Habs outhit the Caps in the first frame of a game … The Caps won 12-of-17 (71%) of their first-period face-offs and 18-of-25 (72%) of their second-period draws… Montreal surrendered 11 goals to the Capitals in the two Bell Centre games, with eight of those goals coming at even strength … Ovechkin and Matt Bradley led the Capitals with four hits each on the night … Backstrom and Knuble led the Caps with half a dozen shots on goal each … John Carlson led the Caps with four blocked shots … O’Byrne and Josh Gorges paced the Habs with four blocked shots each … Eight of Montreal’s 21 second-period shots on goal (and its lone goal of the stanza) came on the power play.
Down On The Farm – Leading their opening round series against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers three games to one, the AHL Hershey Bears returned home to Giant Center on Wednesday night to host the Sound Tigers in Game 5 of the set. Hershey took down the Sound Tigers, 4-1, to advance to the East Division final.
Hershey came out strong in the first frame, opening up a 3-1 lead on even-strength goals from Karl Alzner, Zach Miskovic and Kyle Wilson. The Bears outshot Bridgeport 13-1 in the first, but the Sound Tigers scored on their lone shot, a shorthanded goal from Dylan Reese.
The Bears extended the lead to 4-1 in the second on Alexandre Giroux’s sixth goal of the series, a power play strike. Hershey made that lead stand up by holding the Sound Tigers to an all-time franchise playoff record low seven shots on goal for the game. Michal Neuvirth made six stops to record his third straight playoff win.
Hershey faces the Albany River Rats in the East Division final series. Game 1 of that series is Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Giant Center in Hershey. Game 2 is at 5 p.m. n Sunday at Giant Center.
1 - 0 WSH
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 MTL
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 WSH
4 - 2 WSH
5 - 2 WSH
5 - 3 WSH