Caps Crush Habs, 5-1, Behind Varlamov

April 20, 2010 | Ed Frankovic

There were numerous Montreal fans who booed the American anthem to start Monday night’s game between the Washington Capitals and the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. So what happened to the local hometown team for the next several hours is what I call KARMA!! Semyon Varlamov (26 saves) stoned the Habs in the first period and then the Caps exploded for four second period tallies en route to a 5-1 beatdown of Jacques Martin’s club to give Washington a 2-1 lead in their best of seven game series. Game four is on Wednesday night in Montreal at 7pm on Comcast in HD.

As expected with 22,000+ loud and singing fans at the Bell Centre, the Canadiens came out with a ton of energy and carried the majority of play in the opening stanza. The Habs would out shoot the Caps, 10-7, in the first period and Montreal had some really good scoring chances only to be denied by Varlamov. Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau, as I suggested in my blog last night, went with #40 over Jose Theodore in goal, and it was just another in a LONG line of great decisions by the 2007-08 Jack Adams award winner. If not for the play of Varly then the Canadiens come out of period one with at least a one goal lead. The young Russian goalie would continue to make the big save when Washington needed it and he controlled or smothered any rebounds. Varlamov’s record at the Bell Centre is now 3-0 with a 1.63 GAA and .940 save percentage!

At the other end of the ice, Jaroslav Halak stopped all seven Capitals shots in period one, with a couple being of the quality variety, but #41 would be shellacked and chased in period two. First, after a terrible penalty by Tomas Fleischmann for hooking Andrei Markov led to a Montreal power play chance just 54 seconds into period two, Boyd Gordon broke down ice with the puck and he and Mike Knuble whacked at it several times before putting it by Halak for a shorthanded marker. Then Brooks Laich fired a shot on net off of a Mike Green feed and with Eric Fehr and Brendan Morrison screening Halak, it found the back of the cage to make it 2-0 at 4:42 of the second. Less than four minutes later that line would strike again as Fehr banged home a rebound of a Morrison shot to make it 3-0 and send #41 to the showers.

On came Carey Price and with 6:10 to go in period two, Knuble threw the puck behind the net and Nicklas Backstrom fed Alexander Ovechkin in the slot for a one-timer that #31 never had a chance on and the rout was on. In period three, Caps killer Tomas Plekenac scored an early power play goal, then Washington took another penalty, but the Caps killed it off and then Matt Bradley tallied in the last minute to make it 5-1.

Here is the rest of the analysis of a win by a Caps club that had the best road record (24-10-7) in the NHL this season:

What a game by Gordon! Not only did he score the shorthanded tally that totally turned the tide Washington’s way, but he was an incredible 13-2 on face-offs. He also was +2 on the night and did a super job at the Washington blue line of thwarting Montreal rushes. The decision to re-insert #15 into the line-up and scratch Dave Steckel was yet another shrewd move by Boudreau.

Fehr OWWWWNNNNSSSS the Canadiens. #16 had a goal and an assist and it was his sixth tally in seven contests versus Montreal this season. Fehr was super efficient going +2 in only 9:21 of ice time.

Laich (+2) returned to form tonight notching a goal and an assist logging 18:56. Boudreau shifted him down to the third line with Fehr and Morrison and they clicked in their eight plus minutes together. Morrison, who was even in the regular season at home but was +23 on the road, went +2 in Montreal. You can bet the farm he is playing on Wednesday!

On the blue line, Tom Poti was outstanding going +3 in 23:40 of time. Is it me or do games against Northeast Division teams, such as Boston, Buffalo, and Montreal, bring out the best from the Beantown native? In addition, USA hero John Carlson (+2 in 20:19) was very good for the third straight evening while Green and Jeff Schultz both rebounded from poor outings to have strong contests. Both #52 and #55 were +2 as well with Green notching an assist on Laich’s goal. The only bad news on the backend was that Shaone Morrisonn logged only 10:52 of ice time and did not play in the last 24:52 of this tilt.

The problem child of the evening though, was once again Washington’s power play. It was a pitiful 0 for 7 in game three and is now 0 for 14 in the series. I could deal with that if the club was getting good shots and pressure on Montreal but that has not been the case, at all. The Caps seemed to always lose momentum in the first three games whenever they were awarded a power play. With a chance to put the contest away for good up 4-0, they received a four minute one late in the second period that carried early into the third when Plekenac interfered with Fehr and then lost his mind on the officials. But during the second minor, Laich took a careless penalty and after Plekenac came out of the box he scored for the Habs with the man advantage. Besides Laich’s bad decision that resulted in a penalty, the biggest problem was too much passing and not enough shots with traffic in front. But at least the Caps have figured that out when it is five on five.

Montreal would go 1 for 5 with the man advantage on the night but they gave up Gordo’s shortie, so their power play was not effective either. In addition, Plekenac, Mike Cammalleri, and Andrei Kostitsyn, a line that scored all five Habs goals on Saturday, each were a woeful -4.

In the kudos department, Jason Chimera deserves quite a bit of those for not fighting or retaliating on several occassions when Montreal players took unnecessary shots or tried to goad him into striking back. #25 smartly kept his head with his club in control on the scoreboard.

Yesterday I mentioned that three players needed to step up in game three after poor performances in games one and two at the Verizon Center. Both Green and Schultz did that tonight after a shaky first period. The third member of the trio, Alexander Semin, still seems to be missing in action despite waking up a few times in the third period. Simply put, #28 needs to start competing more. He was beaten or taken off the puck easily on several occassions, including a missed clear in front of the Caps net when the game was still scoreless that led to a great Montreal chance. There is no excuse for Semin to be this soft at this time of the year. He is pointless in the series.

Notes: Final shots were 36-27 for the Caps…Washington also won the face-off battle 42-30, thanks to Gordon…after praising the officials for games 1 and 2, I thought they made some curious calls this evening by caving to the pressure of the Montreal fans. The call I liked least was the goalie interference infraction whistled on Knuble midway through the 3rd period. That one smelled of excessive whining to the supervisor of officials (Kevin Collins) between games…Early message to Caps fans attending Friday night’s game five at the Verizon Center: Be respectful of the visiting team’s anthem. If you can’t do that, then you shouldn’t go to the game. Besides, O Canada is a great song and the Canucks are our long time ally.