When the Montreal Canadiens took a 2-1 lead on Brian Gionta’s power play goal with 4:18 remaining in the second period, I felt that old twinge in my stomach. It’s the twinge you feel when you watch your favorite team pay the price for getting completely outplayed in a game that you know they shouldn’t be.
Up two games to one coming into a pivotal Game 4, the Caps had a chance to keep the momentum going after a huge come from behind win in Game 2, and a dominating 4-goal victory in Game 3. But Gionta’s goal, in a period dominated by the Habs, brought back those old familiar feelings of our underachieving Caps teams of the past. But Semyon Varlamov and Mike Knuble would have none of it.
Varlamov turned in another magnificent post season performance, the second period being especially superb with 20 of his 36 saves coming in the period dominated by the faster Canadiens. But the entire game, momentum and all, turned with just six and a half seconds left in the period. With the Canadiens up 2-1, controlling the game, and the crowd in full throat, Mike Knuble, who is becoming one of my favorite Caps despite his past Philthy ties, took a pretty shorthanded pass from Boyd Gordon and beat Montreal goaltender Carey Price to silence the 20,000+ fans in the Bell Centre, and turn Mr. Mo back onto neutral ice.
If you watched the game, you kind of saw the Canadiens come out a little tight in the third period. I don’t want to say the reality of falling behind 3 games to 1 was getting to them, but they were a different team coming out tied 2-2, as opposed to the team you may have seen had they been up 2-1. And the Caps took advantage. About halfway through the 3rd, the Caps “Big Three” (Backstrom, Semin, and of course the Great Eight) put them a head to stay with Semin feeding Ovechkin who in turn fired a laser past Prince to put our boys up 3-2. Chimera scored 50+ seconds later, and Knuble and Backstrom scored empty netters with a Dominic Moore goal sandwiched in between, for the final score of 6-3. And of course, with that, the Caps come home to the Verizon Center Friday night, up 3 to 1, with a chance to eliminate the Habs. As a Caps fan, how comforting would it be if they could close this thing out in 5 games, and have a few extra days to prepare for either the New Jersey Devils or Philadelphia Flyers in the conference semis as opposed to dragging it out to another 7-game affair. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Montreal is a good, fast team, and you have to put them away or else they’ll hang around and sneak out a win or two. But ladies and gentlemen…the real Washington Capitals showed up at the 19:53 mark of the second period. And as long as they continue to play like that…June will be a very good month.
Rock the Red!!!!!