The Washington Capitals raced to an early 2-0 advantage, then proceeded to give another lead away, and needed a late Eric Fehr goal with 12 seconds left to tie the game at three and force overtime. After a scoreless five minute session, Semyon Varlamov (21 saves) stoned all three Montreal shooters and Nicklas Backstrom buried the third and final Cap shootout attempt by Carey Price (20 saves) to give Washington a 4-3 victory at the Bell Centre. Washington is now 15-5-6 on the season.
Alexander Ovechkin (1 goal, 1 assist) and company looked like world beaters in the first 10 minutes of this one as they came flying out of the gate in typical Washington fashion. The Caps would score first for the 20th time in 26 contests this season. Defenseman Karl Alzner, in just his second game with the big club in 2009-10, made a nice play at the point and fired a shot on net that Fehr deflected by Price for his first of two tallies on the night. Then Ovechkin scored on a rocket one-timer off of a beautiful Backstrom feed on a 3 on 2 rush. It was the Great #8’s 18th goal of the season in just 20 games.
But Montreal slowly turned things around in the first period, thanks to a bad play by recent call up Alexandre Giroux. #33 was going to be offside on a scoring rush and he compounded the miscue by interfering with the Montreal defender at the blue line. Even though the Canadiens did not score on that power play they gained some much needed momentum. In the middle period the Habs were all over the Caps scoring on a Jaroslav Spacek power play blast with heavy traffic in front of Varly and then Cap killer Tomas Plekanec converted against Washington once again on a scramble in front after a Dave Steckel turnover.
In the third period Giroux took another bad penalty, although it was a questionable call, and when Brooks Laich put his arms around Mike Cammalleri he was called for holding and the Habs received a 1:17 two man advantage. The Caps would kill off the 5 on 3 but Travis Moen tipped in a Marc-Andre Bergeron point blast to give Montreal the lead for the first time at 5:34 into the final period setting the stage for Fehr’s game tying power play goal with twelve seconds left.
That goal came after a timeout with Varlamov pulled, on a nicely diagramed Bruce Boudreau play, as Backstrom kicked the face-off to Tomas Fleischmann who threw the puck cross ice to the slot to a wide open Ovechkin. Alexander the Great fired it on net but Fehr tipped it stopping the momentum of the puck in front and then #16 slid the biscuit five hole on Price allowing the Caps to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Here is the post game analysis:
Stat of the Day, courtesy of the Caps great Media Relations Department: Coming into tonight the Caps were 9-3-3 with Fehr in the line-up. Make it 10-3-3 now after #16 had two goals in this one (he now has 6 goals and 3 assists this season). A few weeks ago Eric told me he was totally healthy and felt like he was ready to play his best hockey. Well he was right because he is and whatever line he gets put on seems to produce right now. With Sloan likely returning for Monday’s contest and Giroux likely Hershey bound, you could see Fehr up with Ovie and Backstrom on the first line for the Hurricanes game.
Varlamov was good once again keeping Washington in it in the third period when the Habs seized the lead. He could not be faulted on any of the three Montreal goals. At the other end Price was on his game too and he stopped Ovechkin on a breakaway early in the second period that would have made it 3-0 Caps. He also stopped the Great #8 in the shootout on the same forehand move he made earlier on him. Neither goalie ended up with a good save percentage though because both teams were pretty sloppy in this one and there seemed to be more turnovers than shots.
Until the late face-off power play goal, special teams really plagued the Caps as their man advantage looked very disorganized on its first two attempts. What was even worse was the penalty kill. Montreal came into tonight’s contest with one power play goal in their last 7 games and that was Mike Cammalleri’s game winning blast in DC last Friday night. On Saturday the Habs struck twice on the power play in four attempts, both on screened shots from the point with the second one tipped in by Moen.
Giroux (1 assist), called up yesterday for tonight’s tilt due to Tyler Sloan’s absence, did not have a good game despite getting 19 shifts and 14:36 of ice time. It was his interference penalty that thwarted early Caps momentum when they were up 2-0 and dominating play plus he had a third period trip, that was a weak call, but because he is not a good skater he put himself in a position where the referee was able to penalize him. In addition, he was on a line with Oveckhin and Backstrom for much of the night and looked very much out of place. The bottom line is this guy can’t skate and belongs in the minor leagues.
Jay Beagle only saw 6:36 of ice time tonight and his tripping penalty led to the Habs first goal. Steckel is really struggling too making careless turnovers and not converting when he gets a scoring chance (0 goals this season). #39 was only 4-3 from the dot tonight, the one area where he typically excels. I am not sure what is going on with him but he definitely has a confidence problem right now.
Defenseman Mike Green had a better effort tonight going +1 in over 27 minutes of ice time but he continues to struggle to get his shot on net. #52 is not getting much room on the power play and when he does he is missing the mark with his blasts or having them blocked.
At the end of the night, despite an inconsistent performance, the Caps did manage to get two points without their top two right wings (Alexander Semin and Mike Knuble) and arguably their second best defenseman, Tom Poti, missing as well. Next up is struggling Carolina on Monday, who are an NHL worst 5-16-5. Regular Canes #1 goalie Cam Ward is still out of the line-up due to a leg laceration. Monday’s game will be back on Comcast HD after tonight’s contest was on Comcast Sportsnet Plus in low definition. I look forward to the day when every Caps game is in high definition.