Friday, April 16, 2010

Capitals/Canadiens Game 1: “Jagr” Wins it in overtime for Habs


Tomas Plekanec is swarmed by his Montreal Canadiens teammates after his overtime goal in Game One vs. Washington Capitals – Chuck Myers (MCT)

Tomas Plekanec put his money where his mouth was, in the media-fuelled war of words against Jose Theodore, in Game One as the Montreal Canadiens shocked the Verizon Center crowd with a 3-2 overtime win over the Washington Capitals.

Plekanec beat out Capitals defenceman  Shoane Morrisonn, inside the Washington blue line, and fired a wrist shot past Theodore at 13:19 of the extra period.

The two adversaries had been in a war of words after Plekanec said Theodore was not the same level of goalie as a Martin Brodeur or Ryan Miller. Theodore responded sarcastically, referring to Plekanec as “Jagr”.

The game began looking just like it has been predicted, with a Washington offence swarming the Montreal end. The Capitals outshot their opponents 19-7 in the first period and dominated in the faceoff circle.

It could easily have been a three or four-goal lead if not for the goaltending brilliance of Jaroslav Halak. The underdogs would not get their first shot until the 7:24 mark.

The Canadiens knew they would be in tough against the top five-on-five team in the regular season (213 goals) and would need special teams to help their effort.

They got just that at 12:26 when Mike Cammalleri scored on the power play to give the Canadiens a one-goal lead.

Washington continued to mount the pressure and Joe Corvo lobbed in a shot from the blueline, over the shoulder of a screened Halak, at 15:33.

In the second period, coach Jacques Martin made some adjustments and the Canadiens turned things around. The visitors dominated the Capitals in the second half of the period. Martin double shifted Cammalleri on a line with Maxim Lapierre and Mathieu Darche to put some strain on the larger, but slower Capitals defence.

With the majority considered slow and, in some cases old, themselves, the Canadiens corps of blueliners were able to shutdown the league’s most explosive player, Alexander Ovechkin. The Russian sniper had no shots on goal and five attempts blocked for the entire game.

Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau put more of the blame on his captain. “They gapped up on him (Ovechkin), but I don’t think he played very well,” he said, indicating that the rest of the Capitals had 47 shots on goal.

"Our best players weren't our best players tonight. I just didn't think he was very good tonight"

The Canadiens hoped to carry the momentum in the third period, but a poor clearing effort and a bad bounce off the skates of Hal Gill led to a Niklas Backstrom goal.

image Washington Capitals Jose Theodore makes one of his 35 saves in Game One – Molly Riley (Reuters)

Montreal refused to give up and fired everything they had at Thoedore , who made 35 saves on the night. They finally broke through when Scott Gomez beat out defenceman Mike Green to the front of the net, defecting a feed from Brian Gionta past the Washington netminder to tie the game at two.

image Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin skates away in disgust as the Canadiens celebrate Scott Gomez’s tying goal. – Greg Fiume (Getty Images)

The Habs defence and Halak continued to hold back the Capitals through the rest of the period and into overtime. Jaroslav Spacek logged just under 20 minutes and thwarted Ovechkin and co. at every window of opportunity. Gill was equally effective in his 25 plus minutes, blocking nine shots.

“We gave him (Ovechkin) no space or time to shoot,” Halak said. “He’s a great one-on-one player. We probably pissed off everybody, so they will try to come out stronger on Saturday.”

Martin praised his team for the group effort to shut down the league’s top offence shut down all four Capitals power play chances.

“When you face an elite player, like Ovechkin, it’s not one individual’s responsibility, it’s a team effort,” he said. “Our support players gave us some good help tonight. I thought it was some excellent teamwork.”

Overtime began with and unsuccessful Canadiens power play and was followed by some exciting end-to-end play, cumulating in Plekanec’s winner.

Plekanec explained post-game that his comments, from earlier in the week, were taken out of context. “I didn’t take it personally. It wasn’t completely right in the newspapers,” he said. “I would never say anything wrong about Theo, and I respect him.”

Game Two goes Saturday night in Washington, with Games Three and Four in Montreal on Monday and Wednesday.

Three Stars: 1. Tomas Plekanec 2. Jaroslav Halak 3. Jose Theodore

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