Montreal 6 Washington 5 OT (Bell Centre)
Canadiens fans are an interesting bunch. Before the game, no one was willing to give the Canadiens a chance to win tonight's game. Fans sat in front of the TV, with one hand in front of their face and fingers spread to partially obscuring the view. "Minimize the carnage" was the most positive rallying cry of the day.
The Gazette's Pat Hickey theorized that coach Jacques Martin's selection of Carey Price as the starting goaltender was in expectation of a rout. Hickey said that Martin didn't want Halak's confidence to be shaken by a shelling from Washington. It should be said that Hickey is a card-carrying member of Team Halak which may have influenced his "throw Price to the wolves" speculation.
After an exciting win in overtime by the Canadiens, some were bemoaning that the explosive Capitals made the game close. Sigh.
Jacques Martin let it be clear how he felt about the win when asked by freelance reporter Arpon Basu, "Where I come from, when you beat the best team in the NHL you should be happy."
Tomas Plekanec agreed, “To beat this hockey club is great for us. We needed two points in the standings and we got them.”
The Capitals are at the top of the league standings. That fact shouldn't be lost on Canadiens fans. A lineup that boasted four AHL players and relied on five defenseman for most of the game earned two points against a team who that had not lost in 14 games. During the streak, the Capitals mowed down teams far more talented than the Canadiens.
Washington is 25 points ahead in the standings and have scored an astounding 79 goals more than Montreal. Need more convincing? They have scored the most even strength goals, the most power-play goals and the most goals on the road. These guys are good.
And after tonight, the Canadiens have a season record of 2-1-1 against the Capitals.
The Habs benefited from an excellent start. Scott Gomez scored only 36 seconds into the first period of the game. It was the first time all season that the Capitals had given up a goal in the first minute of any period.
And the Canadiens did it again to start the second. Tom Pyatt, on a line with Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta, scored his first NHL goal with 41 seconds gone in the second period.
Getting the lead, employing an aggressive forecheck, and making the Capitals play defense were keys to the Canadiens win. It also helped that the Habs prevented Alex Ovechkin from scoring despite his eight shots on goal and almost 30 minutes of ice-time. Carey Price was mostly responsible for that with a solid effort making key saves, 33 in all, in his first game in two weeks.
Coach Martin complimented Price's "character and determination" noting that "He made big saves when we needed them." Martin praised Price for staying ready while Halak started five straight saying that "Carey has practised really hard and looked sharp in practise."
Were the Canadiens perfect? Certainly not. Turnovers were costly. Hal Gill and Roman Hamrlik struggled at times. David Desharnais, Ben Maxwell, and Matt D'Agostini were mostly ineffective with none getting ten minutes of icetime. Price gave up one goal he would like to have back.
But on the other hand, Gill blocked an incredible 11 shots. Sergei Kostitsyn was a magician with the puck and tallied three assists. Tomas Plekanec had eight shots and two goals, scoring the winner with only seven seconds left in overtime. Pyatt had seven shots on goal in addition to his marker.
Sure the Canadiens gave up three goals in the final period. But, so have better teams. During the 14-game winning streak, Washington outscored their opponents 30-6 in the third.
The Canadiens also ended Jose Theodore's 10-game unbeaten streak. Theodore replaced Michal Neuvirth in the second period when the starter tweaked a pre-existing "minor injury" believed to be his knee.
Josh Gorges received a head laceration when a rocket off the stick of Mike Green struck him in the helmet. It was a scary time for players and fans alike until Gorges got to his feet attended to by Dr. David Mulder. Gorges was treated it the locker room and remained there for observation.
"The puck got him right in the helmet, you can see the indentation of the puck in the helmet," said GM Pierre Gauthier. "He's very lucky. But he's OK, he was chatting with the guys."
There was a controversial play late in the second period when Alex Ovechkin bulldozed Hal Gill, Carey Price and the puck into the net. After conferring, the official waved off the goal. While a reason wasn't given, the play is covered by the NHL's Rule 69.6 (an edited version appears below).
- Rebounds and Loose Pucks - In the event that a goalkeeper has been pushed into the net together with the puck by an attacking player after making a stop, the goal will be disallowed. If applicable, appropriate penalties will be assessed. In the event that the puck is under a player in or around the crease area (deliberately or otherwise), a goal cannot be scored by pushing this player together with the puck into the goal.
The Canadiens now play a home and home series with Philadelphia on Friday and Saturday as the last two games before the Olympic break.
Rocket's three stars
1. Sergei Kostitsyn
2. Brooks Laich
3. Tomas Plekanec
Special mention: Tom Pyatt
Material from wire services was used in this report.