|Brian Gionta puts the game away in the shootout.|
The Capitals got off to another great start as the line of Jason Chimera, Mathieu Perreault, and Brooks Laich pinned the Canadiens in their zone an extended period with a great forecheck. Their effort was rewarded at the 2:29 mark when Perreault stole the puck after the Canadiens broke out of their zone and fired one past Carey Price from the half wall, a goal that the Habs' netminder would like to have back. After their early goal, however, the Caps started giving up the puck far too easily and allowing chances on Semyon Varlamov. But it was Marcus Johansson who used his blazing speed to pick off an errant clearing pass and head in alone on Price to try and wake his team up. Price countered beautifully with his left pad, but the MoJo's speed caused a penalty and the Caps headed to the power play. On the man advantage, the Caps struggled to get control early but broke through for the first time in six games when Mike Green threaded the needle to Mike Knuble in front for a layup that extended the home side's advantage to 2 with the game barely 6 minutes old. The Caps continued to press, but were denied by Price with several good saves, and then the Caps took a penalty that sent the Habs to their first power play. The Habs were dominant during their man advantage, and hit a post, but Varlamov kept them off the board with several good saves. The pace of play began to slow down after the Habs power play was over, until three minutes left when Karl Alzer took a holding call and sent the Canadiens to another power play. But once again, Varlamov was sensational and held the Canadiens off the board. On the final shift of the period, Alex Ovechkin dominated the Canadiens zone almost by himself, but did not score, and took a stupid slashing penalty as time expired to give the Canadiens a power play to start the second.
In the middle frame, the Canadiens generated good pressure on their power play, but were unable to convert once more as the penalty killers and Varlamov were excellent. As the period continued, both teams got some good chances, but it was the Canadiens that finally seized the initiative about nine minutes into the frame. Brian Gionta took a lead pass from Andrei Kostitsyn and blasted a slapshot under Varlamov's blocker to bring the Canadiens within one. Brooks Laich took another penalty soon after, putting the Capitals back on their heels as the Habs began to dominate them during the man advantage, but were not able to score. The Caps got a small chance when Laich was sprung after the penalty expired, but he shot it high to keep the lead at one. The Canadiens continued to gun at the Capitals and had them pinned in their zone continually, but again could not break Semyon Varlamov. With 3 and a half minutes left, the Caps got a little life, but Carey Price made several huge saves on Mike Knuble and Alex Ovechkin in close to prevent the Capitals widening their advantage. Brian Gionta rewarded his goaltender just a minute later, taking a lead pass from Tomas Plekanec off a bad John Carlson turnover and burying another goal to equalize and silence the home crowd with 2:38 remaining. The Habs were not done, however, and buzzed the Capitals for the remainder of the period before the horn mercifully gave the Capitals a chance to regroup. The Caps were outshot 15-6 in the period.
In the third, the Habs got off to another fast start, keeping the Capitals on their heels for long durations in the offensive zone. The Capitals skated with little energy and seemed disinterested in their own zone. But they got a break when PK Subban lost his cool with Alex Ovechkin after the captain sent him spinning six feet in the air with a hip check. But Brooks Laich took a stupid interference penalty just 20 seconds into the power play, and the Canadiens seized the momentum once again. Semyon Varlamov was huge for the Capitals during this stretch, making two huge saves on Benoit Pouliot to keep the game tied. The Capitals made some feeble attempts at countering back at the Habs, but continued to be totally outworked by the Montrealers and Varlamov made several more great saves. With about 6 minutes left, Brooks Laich took another stupid penalty in the offensive zone, but again, the Canadiens were not able to convert for their winner. Jason Chimera broke free of the Habs defense shorthanded late in the penalty, but he was stopped by Price. As the game neared the end of regulation, the Caps and Habs tried one last time with desperate rushes forward, but both goaltenders made game saving stops late inside the last minute and the game moved to overtime.
In the extra session, the Canadiens got the first chance again but were once more stopped by Varlamov. The the Capitals made one last push, but Carey Price was up to the task with grat stops on Brooks Laich and Alex Ovechkin with his pad and blocker, respectively. In the dying seconds of overtime, the Capitals drove the net wildly and had Price down and out, but both Ovechkin and John Carlson missed wide open nets to send the game to a shootout. In the shooutout, Brian Gionta scored the only goal and two Capitals shooters hit the post to send the Capitals to their third straight depressing defeat.
Alex Ovechkin, I am calling you out. The man was totally invisible tonight except for his pouting on the bench and his slamming of sticks and gesticulations on the ice, conduct totally unbecoming of a "team captain" and "one of the best players in the world." His skates were on railroad tracks when he was backchecking, he only had three shots all night, and his body language was PA-THET-IC. Oh, and he took a stupid, selfish penalty at the end of the first period which let the Canadiens get all their momentum, and he was held off the score sheet for the third consecutive game. If you can't already tell, I'm pretty mad.
Semyon Varlamov was a beast tonight. Varly cannot be faulted for letting in two breakaway goals to a finisher as gifted as Brian Gionta, and was the reason the Capitals got the point that they did, standing on his head from the end of the first period onwards to keep his team in the game. He has been playing very well of late and as of right now, I see no need to take him off the ice unless he gets hurt.
Can this team play 60 total minutes? They do not have the ability to string together three, or hell even TWO, good periods and if they don't figure it out soon, things are going to get very ugly very quickly. This is the same old story with the same team, and the Caps' time to learn their lesson is running out. With games against the Lightning and Penguins coming up this weekend, this is a deciding week in the Caps season. If they win the next two games, watch out. But if they don't...
The Capitals will practice tomorrow at Kettler Capitals Iceplex as they prepare to take on the Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum on Friday night before welcoming the Penguins to Verizon Center on Sunday afternoon. Those games are scheduled for 7 and 12:30 P.M., respectively.