Game preview #2: Canadiens-Capitals
(Montreal leads best-of-seven series, 1-0)
Big story: Winning the Presidents' Trophy last season didn't help San Jose any, as the Sharks got bounced by Anaheim in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It's a little premature to start worrying about Washington just because the Capitals lost their opener to Montreal, 3-2 in overtime, but they will find themselves on tenuous ground if the Canadiens complete the sweep at Verizon Center.
Canadiens: Having lost eight consecutive postseason games and facing the NHL's most high-octane offense, if Montreal had been steamrolled on Thursday it's safe too say not many hockey pundits would have been surprised. But Mike Cammalleri's power-play goal to open the scoring announced the Canadiens had come to play. Even after the home team took a 2-1 lead early in the third, they battled back and got a Scott Gomez goal to force overtime. That's where Tomas Plekanec became the hero, ripping home the winner at 13:19 of the first extra period and giving the Habs the early edge.
"You know what, you can't really go too high," said goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who was spectacular in stopping 45 shots. "It's only Game 1 and we are still really far away. Every game is a different game, like they always say. We just need to get ready for Saturday. We just need try to do the same thing as we did (Thursday)."
Capitals: Alex Ovechkin is the face of this Washington franchise, and whether for right or wrong he will receive much of the credit when the Capitals win and much of the scrutiny when they lose. Ovechkin played over 26 minutes in the opener without registering a shot on goal, and coach Bruce Boudreau was blunt in saying his superstar had to bring more to the table. To his credit, Ovi didn't disagree.
"I just have to play better," Ovechkin said. "I don't know why, but I didn't feel that power or something, I don't know what. Maybe it was the first game and before the game I said everybody is nervous, shaky and too excited. This is the playoffs and this is a fun time.
"I had opportunities to shoot the puck and didn't shoot. I tried to create some moments, but I think it would be better if I played simpler to try to get some results."
Who's hot: Montreal forward Brian Gionta finished the regular season with goals in three straight and picked up an assist on the game-tying goal by Gomez on Thursday. Gomez had three assists in his last two regular-season games. … Washington forward Nicklas Backstrom, who scored a career-high 33 goals in the regular season, picked up his first of the playoffs 47 seconds into the third period of Game 1 to give his team a 2-1 lead that ultimately wouldn't hold.
Injury report: Capitals forward Tyler Sloan, out since April 9 with an upper-body injury, is not expected to return to the lineup on Saturday.
Stat pack: Montreal defenseman Hal Gill had a game-high nine blocked shots in the opener. … Washington has won five of the nine playoff series in which it lost Game 1.
Five Keys to the Game : Habs-Caps #2
A game of inches
How to slow-vechkin
Pleky 1, Theo 0
Habs draw first blood