Bad Start Costs Caps in Game 5 Loss, 2-1

April 24, 2010 | Ed Frankovic

With their season on the line, the Montreal Canadiens came out to start game five of their best of seven series with the Washington Capitals with a very spirited effort. The result of that hard work paid off as Mike Cammalleri scored just 1:30 into the contest and then Travis Moen scored at the 7:01 mark to give the Habs an early 2-0 lead and with Jaroslav Halak thwarting 37 of 38 shots on goal, the Canadiens were victorious, 2-1, and have forced a game six on Monday night at the Bell Centre.

Here are the stats, quotes, and analysis from a blown chance by the Caps to win their series and get some rest for the second round:

Often when you think about the result instead of the process, that is when bad things happen. I am going to accuse several Capitals of that tonight and we’ll get to some of the awful individual performances in a minute. But first, the following quote from a very disgusted Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau sums up this very non-entertaining hockey game.

“We have Game 5 in our building, and we play like crap the first 10 minutes and the game is over,” said the head coach on the contest that allows the Canadiens to creep back into the series.

Washington’s power play had five chances tonight and did not score. It is a major problem right now (1 for 24 in the series) and Montreal nearly notched a shorthanded goal in the first period that would have made it 3-0, but instead they hit the post. Simply put, there were several players on the Caps who didn’t come ready to play and that is why Washington will be practicing on Saturday instead of celebrating a series win on Friday night.

“I’d agree [the power play] it is part of the reason. I also don’t think we are getting 20 guys playing. We are getting 13 and 14 guys every night rather than everyone coming to play,” said Boudreau on what he saw as the reason why the Caps were unable to clinch on Friday night.

Let’s start with Mike Green, who was named a Norris Trophy finalist today along with Chicago’s Duncan Keith and Los Angeles’ Drew Doughty. #52 does not look anything like the guy who played so confidently down the stretch. He looks tentative with his decision making and as a result he is ending up making the wrong play on several occassions. Green is thinking way too much and not relying on his instincts. His work on the right point on the power play was atrocious as he fumbled several pucks to make it much easier for the Canadiens to kill off Washington manpower advantages. Green was a -1 in 24:53 and was whistled for holding in the first period.

Next on my list is Alexander Semin. #28 has exactly ONE point in this series and has not scored a goal in 12 straight playoff games. In fact, I saw a replay of his assist from Wednesday night and he is lucky he was awarded it because Semin fumbles the puck coming across the blue line but Montreal’s Josh Gorges swipes the puck right to Alexander Ovechkin for the big third goal that gave the Caps the lead in game four. Semin’s biggest problem in the first four games was his lack of compete level. He was a bit better tonight but he continues to be unwilling to use his speed and strength to drive around Montreal defenders, instead opting to make “Nylander-like” peel back circle plays that have often led to offensive zone turnovers. He did have nine shots on goal but he also had five attempts blocked and three that missed the net. His coach had the following to say about him afterwards.

“He did put in a better effort, I thought, than the last three or four games. If we don’t get him scoring, then it is too easy to check certain guys. He just has to come through,” added Boudreau, who even tried putting #28 with Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom for a shift or two in the third period.

Montreal coach Jacques Martin put three former Stanley Cup winners, Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez, and Travis Moen together and that trio scored the game winner and frustrated the Caps attack. Ovechkin did manage to score his fifth goal of the playoffs on a rebound in front of Halak, but the other lines, and in particular the second, did not bury the chances they had.

“We have to score on the power play. We had lots of chances. Sasha (Capitals Forward Alexander Semin) has to score in the middle when he has a chance, Flash (Capitals Forward Tomas Fleischmann) had a chance {to score}. Our top guys have to score goals,” added the team captain on what needs to happen for the Caps to come out on top.

Semyon Varlamov (26 saves) gave up the two tallies but it was hard to fault him on either goal because his defense let him down. Cammalleri’s goal was scored on a rush after an offensive zone turnover. #13 trailed the play up the ice but a lazy back checking effort allowed him to rip one top shelf by Varly. The second goal came off of a Caps faceoff loss and Joe Corvo and Tyler Sloan did not do a good job of coverage. I thought both Corvo (-1 in 12:51) and Sloan (-1 in 10:16) were among the guys on Boudreau’s list of non-performers in game five.

On the backend, John Carlson (+1) had a strong game picking up an assist in 22:46 of ice time. He was credited with four giveaways but for the most part he was creating things on the ice when he was out there. Boudreau mentioned that he would spend the next two days thinking about changing some personnel on his power play and #74 is a guy I would really like to see what he could do. Right now he is performing much better than Green and deserves a spot on the point to show off his ability to get pucks through to the net (or they can move Ovechkin down low and play Carlson with Green or even Tom Poti). Poti (+1) and Schultz (-1) were also decent tonight with #55 having to do alot of covering for his Norris Trophy contending defensive partner.

Finally this, by no means, is the reason the Caps lost on Friday night but the officiating, to include the two referees and two linesman, were absolutely awful in game five. They misinterpreted rules, missed blatant penalties, and overlooked a clear offsides. The missed penalties were the slash on Ovechkin that occurred during the rush on the “too many men on the ice” whistled on the Habs, a neutral zone blow to the head of Eric Belanger, and Varlamov playing a puck while it was outside of the trapezoid. In the first period, when many of the officiating problems occurred, one of the Montreal players shot the puck in on Varly while a Canadien was still on his way out of the zone yet play was allowed to continue. Finally, on the face-off before the Habs second goal, Boudreau argued with the officials on its placement and the decision by the zebras contributed to the winning tally.

“Well the puck was hit ahead with a glove. We knew it was supposed to be in our zone but it should have been to the left of the goalie not the right of the goalie because he did it on the left side. All four of them missed it and then when I’m trying to explain it to them they had the whole rule wrong, they were saying ‘no it’s inside’ and I said yeah its inside but its’ on the wrong side, so that was the debate,” said Boudreau on officials Dennis LaRue and Chris Rooney plus linesman Derek Arnell and Scott Driscoll. Boudreau also let the two officials have it when they ignored the slash on Ovechkin that should have awarded the Caps with a 5 on 3 advantage in the second period.

Supervisor of officials Kevin Collins likely was not pleased with the work of his crew on Friday night but again, that was not why the Capitals lost. Yes, it would have been better had that controversial face-off been moved to the left side where Backstrom, a lefty, has a greater chance of winning the draw, but the goal was the result of a lame effort by the five guys on the ice (19, 8, 22, 77, and 89).

Notes: Washington won the face-off battle 30-25 with Backstrom going 11-12…the Caps had a communication error at the end of the game that prevented them from having a 6 on 5 with the goalie pulled in the last minute or so. Varlamov was waved to the bench for the extra attacker and Eric Fehr jumped on the ice but then Varly mistakenly raced to the net when he saw the puck heading into the Washington zone. The Caps were whistled for too many men and it was a costly mistake, one that was indicative of a lack of mental focus from the team on Friday night…Fleischmann only logged 7:26 of time and he looks physically spent. He has repeatedly been knocked off of the puck very easily in the postseason. Could this be the result of the missed training camp due to a blood clot finally catching up with the man who scored 23 goals and 51 points in 69 contests?…The Capitals fell to 8-19 all time in Game 5s, 5-12 when playing at home. They are now 2-7 in Game 5s when leading the series 3-1…In each of the five games this series, the road team has scored the first goal of the game.