See you Monday!
Golf season for the Habs will have to wait at least a few more days. Jaroslav Halak made sure of that Friday night with a fabulous rebound performance to force a Game 6 against the Washington Capitals back at Bell Centre on Monday night.
Halak, who hadn't played since getting pulled roughly halfway through Game 3, made 37 saves to preserve a 2-1 win over the Capitals at Verizon Center.
Michael Cammalleri and Travis Moen each scored within the first 7:01 of the game and the Canadiens hung on thanks to Halak and their clutch penalty kill. Alex Ovechkin netted the goal for the Capitals, but despite their push they couldn't get two.
"We needed (Halak) tonight and he definitely stepped up," Moen told NHL.com. "I think everyone on the ice played extremely well and we'll need that in the next game."
Ovechkin halved the Habs lead 3:52 into the second period when he poked in a loose puck on the lip of the goal crease, but Halak stopped the last 20 shots he saw, including 12 in the third period and four on a key power play when he made point-blank saves on a pair of slumping forwards, Alexander Semin and Tomas Fleischmann.
Semin and Fleischmann have combined for a grand total of two assists and an even rating in this series. Fleischmann has only six shots and although coach Bruce Boudreau wouldn't name names, he has to be thinking about benching the ineffective Czech forward for Game 6.
"I will think very deeply about that for the next two days," Boudreau said, speaking generally when he was asked if changes will be coming.
"We let it slip away," he said earlier. "We have Game 5 in our building and we play like crap for the first 10 minutes and the game is over."
The only change Montreal will want to make for Game 6 would be on defense if Jaroslav Spacek (illness) is capable of playing. Other than that, coach Jacques Martin shouldn't have to tinker at all.
Martin pushed all the right buttons Friday, including a shakeup to one of his top forward lines. He moved Travis Moen up to play left wing along with Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta and shoved Benoit Pouliot in the bottom six for the first time in the series.
Whether he realized it or not, Martin put together a Stanley Cup-line with Moen, Gomez and Gionta. They are the only three Montreal forwards who have won the Cup, and Gomez has his name on it twice for winning with New Jersey in 2000 and 2003.
And of course, as the story would go, Moen wound up with the game-winner at 7:01 of the first period with Gionta and Gomez picking up the assists. Well before that, Gionta had a fantastic scoring chance just nine seconds into the game after Gomez won the opening faceoff from Nicklas Backstrom.
He didn't score, but clearly the message was sent.
"We have been trying to work on that all series, making sure we have good starts," Gionta said. "Definitely tonight we had to show we were going to be in this, that we weren't rolling over and that we were ready to play. It would have been better if I scored, but for sure, you want to come out and create something and we were able to create something in the neutral zone there. Then we were able to score."
Cammalleri scored 81 seconds later when he beat Washington goalie Semyon Varlamov (26 saves) with a wrist shot to the stick side from the top of the left circle. Andrei Markov made a sweet backhanded pass from the half-wall to set up Cammalleri.
Moen made it 2-0 after he participated in a strong, down low cycle with his linemates and Josh Gorges, who pinched to keep the puck moving. Gionta eventually set Moen up with a pass from behind the net after drawing a second defender to him. Moen stepped into open space and flicked a backhand inside the left post from below the right circle.
"Obviously it was a great play," Moen said of Gionta's pass. "I stayed high and they were able to find me, I was able to kick it up, throw it on net and it found its way in."
Washington rebounded to finish the first period with 15 shots, but entered the first intermission trailing, 2-0.
That changed early in the second when Ovechkin scored, but the Capitals' power play again experienced a power outage.
Washington was 1-for-19 coming in, but had gotten away with it by dominating 5-on-5 play and even potting two shorthanded goals. The power play cost the Caps a chance to clinch Friday night.
It was 0-for-5 with 11 shots on goal. The Capitals, now 1-for-24 in the series, scored on a League-best one out of every four power plays during the regular season (25.2 percent).
"Our power play is not helping us," Brendan Morrison said matter-of-factly. "It is not helping us right now. They're doing a good job pressuring us. We talk about adjustments, but it hasn't translated onto the ice yet. If we want to win this series, it has to help us win a game. So far it hasn't done that."
Boudreau put only part of the blame for Friday's loss on the power play.
"The other reason is we're not getting 20 guys playing," he said. "We're getting 13 and 14 guys every night rather than everybody coming to play. Tonight we had five or six passengers again."
The Canadiens didn't, and that is the main reason they didn't blow the lead like they did in Games 2 and 4. Washington scored in bunches in each of the last three games, but the Habs didn't let that happen again in Game 5.
"We didn't back up and we were still playing the same way," Halak said. "We kept our third man high and even when we gave them some power plays we did a job there."
Nobody is sure if the Canadiens can repeat this effort in Game 6, but they've at least given themselves a chance. The links can wait.
"Before the game everybody knew what kind of game we needed to play and we did it," Halak said. "But still, we're trailing by one and it's still do-or-die for us. We need to play our best all the time now."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
Shift of the Night: Montreal's newly formed Cup line of Brian Gionta, Travis Moen and Scott Gomez -- all former Stanley Cup winners -- put on a great, down-low cycle to cash in on the winning goal. Gionta wound up drawing a second defender to him when he was behind the net with the puck and Moen found open space in the slot. He got the pass, switched to his backhand and flipped the puck inside the left post.
Welcome back, Halak
The Numbers Game - April 23, 2010