Case of the Mondays – For the second time in as many games, the Montreal Canadiens scored two goals in the game’s first 10 minutes. And for the second time in as many games, the goaltending of Jaroslav Halak was enough to make those two tallies stand up for a Montreal win.
Halak stopped 53 of the 54 shots poured in his direction in Monday’s Game 6, enabling the Canadiens to forge a 4-1 win and to force a deciding seventh game in the District on Wednesday.
“I thought he played pretty good,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau of the Montreal netminder. “We threw 54 shots at him that he stopped. He was pretty good. We got great looks when we missed chances. But how much is him and how much is us missing, I mean I think it’s more him than us.”
Mike Cammalleri scored twice for the Habs – his fourth and fifth goals of the series – in a span of 99 seconds to supply all the offense Montreal would need on this night. The Caps set a franchise record for shots on goal in a regulation game; the old mark was 49 on April 23, 1990 against the New York Rangers. Washington’s 22 shots in the third period also established a single-period franchise playoff record.
Washington’s Eric Fehr finally broke Halak’s shutout spell over the Capitals with his third goal of the series late in the third period.
“I thought we had a lot more traffic tonight than the other night,” says Boudreau, referring to Washington’s 2-1 loss to the Habs in Game 5. “Sometimes, goalies get into a zone where nothing is going to beat them. And he’s in that zone. Everything he saw, he was going to stop.
“Joe Corvo got all of that shot from 20 feet out. [Halak] comes out and sticks his glove out and it’s in [the glove]. His movement from side to side was tremendous. It really worked well for them in that [Cammalleri] got the first goal on a perfect shot and it was sort of like, ‘Okay, we’re not going to allow them anything now.’ And they didn’t.”
A Tale of Three Halaks – In the first four-plus periods of this Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series between the Capitals and the Canadiens, Halak stopped 54 of the 57 (.947 save pct.) shots he had faced. At that point, the Habs led Game 2 by a 4-1 score late in the second period.
From that point until the middle of the second period of Game 3 in Montreal, the Capitals treated Halak rudely, scoring eight goals on just 40 shots (.800 save pct.). Montreal coach Jacques Martin intervened at that juncture, pulling Halak from the cage in favor of Carey Price. After Price lost Game 4 to put the Habs in a 3-1 series hole, Martin went back to Halak.
The Halak of the last two games has been even better than the Halak the Caps went up against early in the series. He has now stopped 90 of 92 (.978 save pct.) Washington shots in the last two games, forcing a seventh and deciding game at Verizon Center on Wednesday in the process.
Power Failure – The Capitals had as many shots on the power play in this game (18) as Montreal had at even strength. While the Habs scored on their first power play shot on goal of the game, Washington failed to tally on its chances for the fifth time in six games in the series.
The Capitals were 0-for-6 with the extra man on the night. They are now an anemic 1-for-30 (3.3%) in the series, and 1-for-37 (2.7%) in their last eight games, including the final two contests of the regular season.
Washington has had five or more power play chances in five of their last eight games, and has gone goose egg with the extra man in four of them.
In the first 80 games of the regular season, the Caps had five or more power play chances in a game 25 times. They went without a power play goal in just three of those 25 games, and all three of those games were in October and November.
Boudreau will wait for his current top unit to do or die with the extra man; no changes are currently planned to the Washington power play for Game 7.
“It has to be that group that does it,” Boudreau declares. “I don’t know if we had six [power plays] or whatever. We had so many good chances. On a normal day we would have scored four goals. Today was not a normal day. [Halak] was just out of his mind, good.”
Shutdown Street – It has been quite a while since the vaunted Washington attack has been limited to a single goal or less in consecutive games.
The Capitals scored at least two goals in each of their last 41 regular season games in 2009-10, and in each of the first four games of the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs. Washington was held to fewer than two goals in a game only three times all season: a 2-1 shootout loss at Toronto on Nov. 21, a 3-0 loss at Buffalo on Dec. 9 and a 2-1 defeat at Los Angeles on Jan. 2.
The last time the Caps went consecutive games with fewer than two goals was 134 games ago, including playoffs. Back on Oct. 21-23, 2008, Washington suffered successive 2-1 losses on the road in Calgary and Phoenix, respectively.
Quick Strike Capability – Montreal has had the early jump on the Caps in a few games in this series. Tonight, the Canadiens scored twice in the game’s first 10 minutes for the second time in as many nights. Seven of Montreal’s 18 goals in this series have come in the game’s first 10 minutes.
Game Sevens – For the fourth time in as many Stanley Cup playoff series in the last three springs, the Caps will host a deciding Game 7 at Verizon Center.
Washington lost Game 7 of its Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series with Philadelphia in 2008, falling 3-2 in overtime. The Caps ousted the Rangers with a 2-1 win in Game 7 of the 2009 ECQS, and then fell to Pittsburgh in Game 7 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinal Series last May.
Line Dance – Boudreau worked some pre-game mind games with his forward lines. During the warm-up line rushes, the Caps showed lines of Ovechkin-Backstrom-Knuble, Laich-Fleichmann-Semin, Chimera-Belanger-Fehr and Steckel-Gordon-Bradley.
The actual lines at the start of the game were: Chimera-Gordon-Fehr, Laich-Backstrom-Semin, Ovechkin-Belanger-Knuble and Fleischmann-Steckel-Bradley.
“I did it early,” says Boudreau, of putting Backstrom with Laich and Semin, a combination that has paid dividends in previous playoff seasons. “The first shift, I thought they had two great chances to score. I think they had their defense not knowing [who was coming].
“For what we wanted to do, I think it was successful. It made them change defense on the fly, and they didn’t know if [Hal] Gill was going to cover Ovi or what have you. But once we got down 2-0 in the second period we were down to three lines. The plan was to re-change it and come back to normal but it was just to maybe get them off their last change situation.”
Given the way Halak played, the line combos probably didn’t matter all that much.
Follow The Leader – Washington has not held the lead at all in the last two games of this series.
Kid Stuff – Montreal rookie defenseman P.K. Subban made his Stanley Cup playoff debut on Monday against Washington. Subban assisted on Montreal’s second goal of the night. He also had a blocked shot and two hits in 10:02 of action.
Happy Birthday – To ex-Caps defenseman Pat Ribble, born on this day in 1954.
By The Numbers – The Habs outhit the Caps 11-5 in the first frame … Brooks Laich’s 8:19 led all Washington forwards in first period ice time … Laich (five) and Joe Corvo (five) accounted for more than half of the Capitals’ total of 18 first-period shots on goal … Corvo led the Caps on the night with 10 shots on goal … Five different Caps had at least five shots on goal … Hal Gill led the Habs with five blocked shots in the game … Mike Green led the Caps with four hits and three blocked shots.