|Braden Holtby broke out more magic Saturday night.|
The Capitals got off to a great start, with three shots within the first minute, but all three were stopped by Carey Price or missed the net. After a turnover in the neutral zone, however, Nicklas Backstrom collected the puck and ripped a shot that was stopped by Price, but Marco Sturm was there to cash the rebound for a 1-0 Caps lead at 1:24. Washington continued to pressure the Habs, and were rewarded with a power play at 5:02 when P.K. Subban was sent off for holding, giving DC their first man advantage. The power play was not very good, however, though the Caps got a little zone pressure until the end. Montreal took another one almost immediately afterwards, however, as Andrei Kostitsyn was boxed for holding at 7:36. The Caps got some great chances on their man advantage, but Price again was up to the task with two amazing saves to keep Washington from extending their lead. The Habs then came right back after the expiration of the penalty and got a great chance in front, but Braden Holtby made a nice stop off a mad scramble to keep the Caps ahead by 1. Washington then slowly began to pick up momentum and earned another power play at 15:23 when Lars Eller was given the gate for high-sticking. Once again though the Capitals power play was pathetic, getting no zone time and committing two offsides infractions during their man advantage. Montreal then amped up the pressure inside the final minute and got some shots off on Holtby, but the Caps goalie punched them aside, and the period ended with DC up 1-0.
Washington got off to another solid start in the second period, using size and speed down low to establish a good forecheck and solid zone pressure. The Capitals earned another power play at when Benoit Pouliot was sent off for tripping Nicklas Backstrom at 4:05, but they again laid an egg on the man advantage and got absolutely nothing going for themselves. The Canadiens roared back after Pouliot was released from the box, getting several shots on Holtby, and had him down, but they simply could not beat him. Nicklas Backstrom broke in right after that scrum, but Price was able to kick out the pad in time to deny the Swede was well. But the Canadiens kept coming, and set up a great forecheck of their own that created several solid chances and forced the Caps to ice the puck twice in a minute. As the period continued, both teams got some good chances, but it was Lars Eller who waltzed in alone on Holtvy with about six minutes left that had the best one; he somehow put it wide. Inside of four minutes remaining, the Canadiens finally caught a break when Matt Hendricks was given the gate for holding at 17:21, giving them their first power play. Montreal got some amazing chances early on their man advantage, but Braden Holtby stood strong with some good saves to keep the Canadiens from equalizing. The remaining 39 seconds expired without incident, and the Caps took a 1-0 lead to the locker room after 40.
The Canadiens came out hard in the third, with good pressure on the Capitals defense and some shots on Braden Holtby that the young goalie had to be sharp on to snuff out. Montreal continued to get solid chances inside the first five minutes as they set up another forecheck, and the Capitals defense had to be solid again with timely shot blocks to keep too many more shots from getting to Holtby. The Montreal pressure paid off again at 6:40 when Alexander Semin was sent off for an offensive zone holding penalty to grant them another critical power play. The Canadiens got off to a great start on the power play, forcing Holtby to make some stellar saves early, but could not break through. After Carey Price made another good save on Mike Knuble in front with ten minutes left, the Habs kept coming at the Caps with more pressure, but were unable to get the puck through. Inside five minutes remaining, the now desperate Canadiens threw everyone forward, and it cost them when Nicklas Backstrom collected a loose clearing pass and laid a perfect pass to Alexander Semin, who chipped it past Price for a 2-0 lead at 16:19. But Marcus Johansson was assessed a delay of game penalty at 16:49 to put the Caps on the penalty kill again. Washington killed the penalty, but Jacques Martin pulled Carey Price to give the Habs a man advantage with 1:06 left. The Caps shut down the rest of the game, though, and walked out of the Bell Centre with a 2-0 win.
Braden Holtby had another absurd game and officially has nerves of steel. Montreal on Hockey Night in Canada? No problem. Holtby was square to the puck all night, didn't overcommit, and didn't make any mistakes. All of that adds up to 18 saves and his second NHL shutout. How do you send him down after a game like this? I think he will be sent down because I still don't think he's the answer in the playoffs, but he sure is making a name for himself.
The new top line of Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Marco Sturm had a nice game, most notably in the form of Marco Sturm's first goal as a Cap, which also happened to be a game-winning one. Sturm cut to the net admirably and did exactly what he gets paid to do: find rebounds a find a way to bury them. I also think that this game might have saved Sturm's lineup spot; though he won't stay on the top line when Alex Ovechkin returns, he should still stick on the third line at this point.
Can we fix the power play? Lost in this game were four miserable man advantages. Yes, Carey Price is good, and yes, the Canadiens have shot-blocking defenders who take away passing lanes. But seriously, come on. Even without Ovechkin and Green, the power play still has Dennis Wideman, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alexander Semin, among others. They really need to fix this thing; they would be so much more intimidating of they did. Please?
The Capitals will travel back to DC Saturday night and will likely have Sunday off. They will return to the ice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex for a practice at 10:30 A.M. on Monday before hosting the Hurricanes at Verizon on Tuesday. That game is scheduled for 7 P.M.