The Capitals came out flying. The Capitals outshot Montreal 41-28 in regulation. The Capitals dominated on faceoffs. The Capitals had a 2-1 lead with 13 minutes to go in the third period. But the Capitals lost.
Tomas Plekanec scored in overtime to seal a 3-2 win for Montreal in game 1 of their best-of-seven series with Washington. Mike Cammalleri opened the scoring with a powerplay goal in the first period, which also ended his personal scoring drought. Joe Corvo tied it up a few minutes later with a long shot that seemed to have eyes through a screen that eventually found the back of the net. Tied 1-1 after 1, and also tied 1-1 after 2, the Capitals’ Nicklas Backstrom scored just 47 seconds into the third period to give the Caps a 2-1 lead. Then it all unraveled.
With less than 10 minutes to go, a team that scored over 300 goals this year decided that the best way to seal it would be to drop back into a trap. The line of Pouliot-Gomez-Gionta was out against Ovechin-Backstrom-Knuble with Schultz-Green. The Caps went into a trap instead of their usual attack style, Gomez beat Backstrom in the neutral zone, then he blew by Ovechkin, then he passed to Gionta, Gionta to Pouliot, and Gomez beat Green to the net for a beautiful goal to tie it up. Lesson learned – “safe is dead”.
I know I am making it sound like Washington lost the game, rather than giving credit to Montreal. That is partially true, but the Habs did 5 things incredibly well that allowed them to beat the top team in the NHL.
1 – Goaltending
Theodore was good, but Halak was better. For Montreal to win, that needs to happen every time.
2 – Discipline
The Canadiens only took 4 penalties the entire game. They will need to continue to keep the #1 ranked Caps PP off the ice as much as possible.
3 – Contain Ovechkin
Not only did they contain him, Ovechkin didn’t even get a shot on goal. See below (#4) to find out why!
4 – Tremendous team defense
This includes the matchup of Spacek on Ovechkin, fierce back-pressure from the forwards, and 9 shot blocks by Hal Gill, who like Spacek, played one of his best games ever in a Habs uniform.
**Back-pressure means the forwards are aggressively backchecking to an area, which in this case is Ovechkin’s side of the ice. By doing that, it allows the D to play him more aggressively because if the D gets beat wide, he has support from at least 1 forward to cover for him; and it also limits the attacker’s (Ovechkin) ability to cut to the middle of the ice.**
5 – Montreal’s best players were their best players
Just look at the goal scorers – Cammalleri, Gomez, Plekanec.
With a 1-0 series lead, the Habs are now playing with house money tonight in Washington. If they lose, at least they accomplished their goal of taking 1 of the first 2 road games against the Capitals. If they win, that’s just a bonus. I just hope that game 1 didn’t wake the beast that is the Washington Capitals. Puck drops at 7pm tonight.
GO HABS GO!
About the Author
Written by Corey Krakower
I am the Director of NHL Content & Habs writer for ProSportsBlogging.com; I have spent 8 seasons behind the bench as a minor hockey coach; and I am the future GM of the Montreal Canadiens (according to my mom). I spend my days managing the Harrow Sports brand in my hometown of Montreal and I moonlight as a Hockey Advisor for Pi Athlete Management. Most importantly, I'll throw anyone under the bus for a laugh.