Coming off a miraculous victory in which the Caps were able to claw back from a three goal deficit, the Caps entered game three in the Bell Centre with the momentum. The Caps capitalized. The Caps unleashed a four goal barrage in the 2nd period, never lost the momentum, and came away with a 5-1 victory against the Canadiens. The big question mark which caused a media frenzy was the decision Bruce Boudreau had to make regarding the Capitals goaltending situation. In game 2, Jose Theodore allowed two goals on two consecutive shots. Although the second goal was in no way Theodore’s fault, Boudreau felt it was the necessary move to get the crowd back into the game and to energize the bench. Semyon Varlamov wasn’t fabulous in game 2, but he certainly was in game 3. The crowd fit the billing as the Bell Centre certainly met expectations of being the loudest building in the league. This didn’t phase Varlamov as Varly made numerous first period saves against the likes of Cammalleri, Plekanec, and Andrei Kostitsyn. Varlamov saved 26 of 27 shots, good for ninth post season win.
The decision to start Varlamov was the right decision (easy to say now) because Varlamov has shined at the raucous Bell Centre. Coming into game 3, Varly was 2-0-0 at the Bell Centre with a .930 save percentage and a 1.94 GAA. I would question someone’s sanity if they would’ve rather had chants of “Tay-0″ raining down on their already confidence-rattled goalie Jose Theodore. Starting Varlamov was the right move. Varlamov has proven he is capable of winning in the playoffs as Boudreau called the young Russian to action last season.
In a bit of irony, the goaltending controversy may have just switched to the opposition as Jaroslav Halak was beaten three times in the 2nd period. The first goal was a demoralizing short-handed goal by Boyd Gordon. The second a slap shot by Brooks Laich from outside the circle, and a third goal by Eric Fehr who crashed the net untouched. Tough to place Fehr’s goal on Halak as Fehr glided past Marc-Andre Bergeron without even a nudge from Bergeron. But that was enough for Halak to get the hook. Enter Carey Price. It was a rude hello for Carey Price as Backstrom found Ovechkin alone in the slot. The subsequent play ended in a snap shot top shelf by Ovechkin. This made it 4-0. Tomas Plekanec was able to pierce Varly’s armor on the power play in the third period. Plekanec is turning into the thorn in the side of the Caps’ defense as he has now scored in all three games thus far in the series. The Caps must find a way to stymie Plekanec in the remaining games this series. Matt Bradley added the fifth and final tally in the waning minutes of game 3. It’s great to see the men who work in the trenches get rewarded with goals.
– Through the first two games of the series the Habs best line was the top line of Mike Cammalleri, Tomas Plekanec, and Andrei Kostitsyn. The three have combined for seven goals through three games. However fortunes changed in game three as the Habs top line combined for just 6 shots on goal, 1 goal, and a glaring -12. This line can obviously score, but against a high potent offense like the Capitals, play in your own end is just as important.
– As I mentioned in my game 1 preview, the Capital’s ultimate success in this series may very well be dependent on the Caps ability to get contributions from their bottom two lines. Washington is the deepest team in the NHL and it showed tonight. The Caps got the secondary scoring they needed with goals from Laich, Fehr, Gordon, and Bradley. If the Canadiens are to have any chance in this series, the Caps top line must be contained. The Habs have done a decent job at that, but the Caps depth proved to much in game 3.
– Fabulous job my Jason Chimera to rebuke Maxim Lapierre’s failed attempt to get Chimera to drop the gloves after the Caps jumped ahead 3-0. We saw first hand how a fight can steal the momentum away from a team when Scott Gomez invited Tom Poti to a tussle in game 2. Poti dropping the gloves got the crowd back in to the game and energized the team. The fight ultimately was the spark that jumpstarted the Caps’ comeback
– Will the Caps ever score a power play goal? The Caps were 0-7 on the power play in game 3 and are still shutout throughout the series’ first three games, 0-14. Kudos to the Habs penalty kill as they are doing a stellar job at blocking the passing lanes and preventing the Cap’s power play from getting good shots on net. That said, it’s just a matter of time before the Caps break out. A power play unit with Ovechkin, Backstrom, Green, Semin, and a mixture of Knuble/Laich/Fehr doesn’t lie dormant for very long. The Habs better hope the Caps’ power play remains asleep for the rest of the series. Not likely.
– The Capitals proved not to be intimidated by the Bell Centre crowd. The Caps held the best road record in the NHL with a mark of 24-10-7 so they are used to being successful in their opponents barns. The reason for the Caps success tonight was surviving the first 10 minutes of the game. That is the goal coming into a road game, survive the first 10 minutes. The Caps did so by scoring first and getting the crowd out of the game. Then there’s Ovechkin – Alex Ovechkin lives for this kind of environment. He has stated on numerous occasions on how he loves playing in Montreal. Ovechkin isn’t one to shy away from any attention.
The series continues Wednesday night as the Caps look to take control of the series before heading back to DC for game 4. Game 4 will be a must win for Montreal. I expect game 4 to be very different than game 3. Montreal will be a desperate team and will doing everything in their control to avoid an elimination game back in DC.
For continued coverage from a Canadiens point of view, check out Hockey Independent Habs blogger George Prax
About the Author: Jeremy is a life time hockey fan currently living in Washington DC. Jeremy also runs a Capitals blog called The Nation's Capitals where he frequently posts blogs about the state of the Caps. His other interests include music and politics. Jeremy has a degree in Political Science. Being from DC, politics kind of comes with the territory.