Montreal-Washington: Nicklas Backstrom's Hat Trick Seals OT Win for Caps

Kamal PanesarCorrespondent IApril 18, 2010

WASHINGTON - APRIL 17: Nicklas Backstrom #19 (R) of the Washington Capitals scores in overtime and is joined by Mike Knuble #22 (L) and Alex Ovechkin #8 (C) to defeat the Montreal Canadiens 6-5  in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Verizon Center on April 17, 2010 in Washington, DC.. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Oh man, was that ever close!

In losing 6-5 in overtime to the Washington Capitals last night, the Montreal Canadiens came within one goal of taking a 2-0 series lead.

Despite having a 4-1 lead nearing the end of the second period—albeit for approximately 40 seconds—the Canadiens could not hold on as the Caps stormed back in the third.

With third period goals by Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and John Carlson—with 1:21 to play in the game—the Caps bombarded the Canadiens and roared back to send the game into overtime.

Despite getting a hat trick from Andrei Kostitsyn, the Caps came away with the victory only 31 seconds into overtime as Backstrom scored his third of the night to seal the deal.

Final score: Habs 5 - Caps 6 (OT)
Series: Tied 1-1


Game Notes

1. For a rare occasion, Jaroslav Halak was not on top of his game.

Despite making some great saves in the game, Halak let in a few softies tonight—more specifically the tying and winning goals.

On both plays, Halak was too deep in his crease and while both were good shots, they ultimately came from a good 20-plus feet out and were capable of being stopped.

The other problem for Halak is that the Caps were crashing his net all night long. That was not necessarily a problem on one of the goals where Halak was clearly interfered with—as was pointed out by TSN's game crew.

While I am not generally one to blame the refs—as I understand that they have a difficult job to do and are only human—last night, there were some missed calls and they might have contributed to the Habs losing the game.

Ultimately, the Habs were masters of their own destiny and let the Caps back into the game. But, suffice it to say that Halak let in a few goals that he would like to have back. Six goals on 36 shots is not very good.

2. Speaking of goaltending, I thought Jose Theodore was not on a short leash this year.

After letting in two goals on the first two shots by the Habs, Caps coach Boudreau pulled Theodore in favour of Semyon Varlamov. This despite coming out publicly before the series to say that Theo was not on a short leash.

I guess Coach Boudreau's definition of a short leash is different than mine.

3. Alex the Gr8 woke up.

Of course he did. Would you have expected anything less? Did you expect him to be held shotless two games in a row?

No, last night, Ovie was intent on making a difference in the game as he came out on his first shift like he was shot out of a cannon.

The result was one goal, three assists, a plus-3 rating, and six shots on net—pretty much exactly what was expected of him and the Caps were able to win.

4. Hello, Andrei Kostitsyn, and welcome to the party!

In scoring a hat trick last night, AK46 moved into a first place tie for points in the playoffs, with five.

As of this morning, he sits tied with the Caps' Nicklas Backstrom and the Pens' Sidney Crosby.

Not bad company to be hanging with.

It's great that he is scoring but I get the sense that Habs fans are holding their breath.  And why not? Andrei's skills have never been doubted but his consistency is something that has always been a problem.

Here's hoping he can keep it up because the Habs will need him to be scoring if they hope to have a chance with the Caps.

5. Speaking of hat tricks, Nicklas Backstrom is a sick player!

While the Caps were ecstatic to see Ovie get back on the scoreboard, it was actually Backstrom that stole the show.

Scoring twice in regulation and sniping the winner 31 seconds into overtime, Backstrom showed exactly why the Caps are categorized as a "quick strike" offense.


Look Out Ahead!

On the RDS post game show last night, former Habs coach Jacques Demers said that while he thinks Halak is not to blame for the loss, he would put Carey Price in the net next game.

And queue the goaltending controversy. I am sure this means that the talk over the next 48 hours will focus largely on this aspect of the Canadiens game. And, while Halak did let in two soft goals, we have to keep in mind that the Habs held a 4-1 lead with less than three minutes to play in the second period.

While I don't think the Habs can go wrong with either Price or Halak, I think that Halak, as the unofficial No. 1, should get the next start. If he falters in Game Three, then and only then would I look to bring Price in. 

Give Halak a chance to redeem himself.

As for the Caps, I think it is pretty likely that we will see Semyon Varlamov starting the rest of the Caps' games.

Short leash indeed.


Next Game

Both teams now fly to Montreal for Game Two on Monday night at the Bell Centre. While I have to say that I was thoroughly impressed with the noise and passion level demonstrated by the Capitals fans in their building, suffice it to say that they ain't got nothing on Montreal.

Despite Habs fans feeling depressed this morning with what could have been, we must keep in mind that the Habs barely squeezed into the playoffs while the Caps are the best team in the league.

As such, leaving Washington with a split is actually a great outcome. So trust me, Habs addicts, the disappointment of what got away will fade and the realization that the Habs still have skated with the Caps for two games will emerge.

Moreover, the realization that despite the Caps being an offensive machine, the Habs can still very much win this series. Or rather, after coming out of Washington with a split and almost up by two games, the Habs actually have a chance of winning this whole thing.

As is usually the case, Game Three in any series tends to be one of the most pivotal and it will be fun to see who takes the lead Monday in Montreal.

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