Game of the season? If not it was pretty close. The Caps came in to game two of their playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens 0-1 and in desperate need of a win. Game one was marked by poor luck, lackluster play and minimal energy. From the horn, it was obvious that the Caps knew they hadn’t been playing up to snuff. Ovechkin went for blood, with two big hits in the opening minutes, but Washington was, perhaps, too aggressive, allowing Montreal to score on their first shot in the first minute. The Canadiens widened their lead in the 7th minute when Kostitsyn scored his first of what would be three goals. At this point, the Caps management pulled starting goalie Jose Theodore, replacing him with Semyon Varmolov. Eric Fehr finally managed to answer in the 10th minute when he scored on a breakaway off of a deflected pass. The period ended with the Caps bruised but still contending. Speaking of bruising, Ovi had 7 hits in the first period. As a point of reference, that’s more than anyone else had in the entire game.
The second period began with the Caps continuing their aggressive play. They kept the puck on Montreals side of the rink for most of the period, seeing shot after shot blocked by goalie Jaroslav Halak. Kostitsyn scored his second at the net in the 11th minute and then again off of a power play a few moments later. To be fair, the goal could be more attributed to Capital Mike Green who unintentionally screened Kostitsyn’s shot. The situation looked grim, but the Caps kept up and Nicklas Backstram scored from a tough angle in the closing minutes of the period.
The Caps entered the third with 1:30 left in a power play from the previous period, but the Canadiens managed to fight it off. Minutes later, Alexander Ovechkin pushed the puck in between the legs of Halack off of a block. Suddenly, the Caps had life again and actually started playing like they were the best team in the NHL. Backstrom scored his second goal off of a sweet little pass from John Carlson, tying the game. Montreal answered five minutes later, taking with wind out of the stadium. In a miracle shot, defender John Carlson put a goal back in the 18th minute tying the game again and leading to overtime.
OT didn’t last long. DC’s new hero, Nick Backstrom, scored his third goal mere seconds after the horn, saving many a Caps fan from a heart attack. So, what do we have from this game? Momentum, plain and simple. Sure, the Caps lost a game 1 on home ice, but they’re still the highest scoring team the season and going up against an 8th seed. The odds are in their favor. We have a new goalie. Despite the promise to keep Theodore on a long leash, he get pulled in the 8th minute of the game, which mentally is a tough thing to come back from. I’d wager that Varmalov will be the Caps goalie for at least the rest of the series. Finally, I think we have a new strategy. I think the Caps have finally realized the grit and aggression win championships. They see that playing tough at the net gets your more goals than slick passes and pretty wrist shots. I think (more like I hope) that game one and the first forty minutes of game two were the worst we’ll see from the Caps in the post season. Thank God.