Game preview #4: Canadiens-Capitals
(Washington leads best-of-seven series, 2-1)
Big Story -- Washington can give itself a chance to win the series on home ice Friday with a victory Wednesday at Bell Centre. The Capitals have scored 10 goals in the last 82 minutes and 8 seconds dating back to Nicklas Backstrom's goal with 1:37 left in the second period of Game 2. With a strong effort in Game 4, the Canadiens can shift momentum and force the need for a Game 6 back at Bell Centre on Monday.
Capitals -- Semyon Varlamov was superb in his first start of the postseason, making 26 saves in a 5-1 victory on Monday. Varlamov was especially good early when he made point-blank saves on Michael Cammalleri, Brian Gionta and Benoit Pouliot to preserve a scoreless tie through the first period. Washington strung together a bunch of secondary scoring early in the second period as Boyd Gordon, Brooks Laich and Eric Fehr tallied goals before Alex Ovechkin made it 4-0 Capitals with 6:10 left in the second. The Capitals' main issue has been their anemic power play. No. 1 in the NHL during the regular season, the Caps' power play is a woeful 0-for-14 in this series. They've had the man-advantage for 25:29.
"Yeah, we suck," coach Bruce Boudreau said of his team's power play. "It is the worst stretch we've gone through, but it happens like that. I thought we had some really good looks but none went in and you get frustrated. It is what it is, but I am sure we will get a goal on it eventually -- maybe not this series, but maybe next year or something."
Canadiens -- The Habs had to fear this coming into the series. They don't seem to be able to slow the Capitals down and that's the biggest danger when you face the Presidents' Trophy winners. Worse yet, Montreal lost its composure in the second period when the Capitals busted out to a 4-0 lead. Scott Gomez yelled at the officials and got a 10-minute misconduct, putting him in the box at a key time when the Habs were going to have to start mounting a comeback. Tomas Plekanec tossed Fehr into Varlamov to get an interference penalty and then he, too, yelled at the officials to pick up an extra minor for unsportsmanlike conduct. The Canadiens also have an issue in goal. Jaroslav Halak has given up seven goals on the last 27 shots he's faced and he was pulled 8:33 into the second period Monday after yielding three goals in four shots over a span of 7:27. Carey Price made 21 saves in relief, but coach Jacques Martin won't say who is going to start Game 4 until Wednesday morning.
"When it comes to goaltending, I have said it all along, I feel and I'm confident that we have two goalies that can do the job and that give us an opportunity to win every night," Martin said. "We'll analyze who I feel will be the best man to go (Wednesday) night and we'll let you know that (Wednesday)."
Who's Hot -- For the Caps, Ovechkin has goals in each of the last two games and so does Fehr. Backstrom has four goals and two assists in the series. … For the Habs, Plekanec has scored in each of the three games and Cammalleri has four assists in the series.
Injury Report -- Washington defenseman Milan Jurcina remains out after double hernia surgery. The Canadiens don't have any injuries of note.
Stat Pack -- Gordon, a healthy scratch in Game 2, came back with a vengeance in Game 3. He scored a shorthanded goal 1:06 into the second period to get the Capitals' offense motoring and he finished the night with five shots on goal, a plus-2 rating and a remarkable 87-percent success rate in the faceoff circle (13-for-15) in just 12:36 of ice time. The Capitals are 119-80 in the faceoff circle in the series.
Puck Drop -- "I think with what we've got on our team, the skills and what we can do, we have to score on the power play like 50 percent, or maybe just a little less," Ovechkin said. "Three games and we haven't had a good power play. They block some shots, but we didn't move and we didn't do our job. Bruce is right, we're terrible on the power play."
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Time to make history, again