Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Caps Hit the Road to Meet Montreal Canadiens

The Capitals safely escaped the onslaught of "Snowvechkin Round 2" to head for the less snowy hockey mecca of Montreal - home to the city's much beloved Les Canadiens. Seriously sports fans, HM is beginning to think I fell asleep and woke up somewhere in Saskatoon - my heart goes out to all those in the storm-affected area who've been without power for days. Hopefully we've seen the end of this late winter weather madness - I did learn that wooden hockey sticks make "excellent tools" (al la Jeff Spicoli) for digging out a car wheel from those small, hard to reach icy crevices.

The Capitals met the Montreal Canadiens for the last meeting between the two of the regular season, hoping to extend their wondrous win streak to 15. The Habs are never a club to give up without a fight, having beat some uber-tough teams in their last few outings, including HM's second beloved  team (the Vancouver Canucks) and our favorite team to beat, the Pittsburgh Penguins. And they've done so without some of their offensive mainstays, particularly Mike Cammalleri (48 points on the season). They've also lost the services of d-man Marc-Andre Bergeron (28 points on the season), Paul Mara, Benoit Pouliot and Sergei Kostitsyn of the nasty duo, the Kostitsyn brothers - all players felled by miscellaneous injuries. Speaking of injuries, Jason Chimera did not dress for the Caps due to a lower-body injury, giving one of favorite grinders Quintin Laing his first jersey in quite some time. Good for Lainger - that guy works his tail off ! We hope to see Jason Chimera back soon though - he's been a most positive addition to the Capitals bench!

Things did not get off to a great start as Montreal's Scott Gomez (who's often been referred to as an "overpaid underachiever" with only 8 goals to his credit since his trade from the Rangers) beat Michal Neuvirth for the first goal of the game - only 30 seconds into the first period. Brooks Laich evened it up with one of his own midway through the opening stanza, doing what he does best by parking his derriere in front of Carey Price's grill. Fans saw yet another knarly hockey injury (seems like there's one in each game these days - though in this case the injured player was wearing a protective visor) as Montreal's Josh Gorges took a sizzling shot from Mike Green to the face. HM wishes him a very speedy recovery.
End of first: 1-1

The action took off fast and furious in the second period as the Canadiens lit the lamp again at only 41 seconds after the first face off. Not to worry, as the Caps tied it up with an absolutely dazzling series of tic-tac-toe passing resulting in a Nick Backstrom goal to make it 2-2. Jose Theodore came off the bench to face his home town team and replace Michal Neuvirth (who I'm guessing suffered some sort of injury - stay tuned). The midway mark of the middle period is when things got interesting to say the least. Now I don't normally complain much about officiating (unless it's in one of my boys' games 'cause I'm the mom) but there were some wacky calls in the second period for sure. Montreal got on the board again on a tally that may or may not have been kicked in by Glenn Metropolit. It seemed to go to review for about three seconds so they deemed it was not kicked in. Then Maxim Lapierre shot a wrister past Theo to take a 4-2 lead. The primary call in question was when Ovechkin, doing his signature bull in a china shop imitation, bowled over big Hal Gill and poked the puck past the goal line after Cary Price failed to cover it. In what Caps fans and Gabby thought shoud have been a clear cut goal, the refs waved it off but yet did not call Ovi for interference. The guys in red, white and blue weren't done adding numbers to the scoreboard as Thomas Plekanec netted yet another one for the home team in the waning minutes of the second. End of second: 5-2

The comeback Caps, as expected, came out with guns blazing in the third and in the opening seconds Mike Green blasted a wrister past Carey Price to get the boys within two. Then Brooks Laich worked his magic at the 9:02 mark to make it a one-point game. Jose Theodore did his part in keeping it close by making more than a few stellar saves despite the loud heckling from a hostile crowd. With a nerve-wracking 2:32 left in the final period, the Caps went to a PP as Glenn Metropolit took a seat for hooking. Tomas Fleischmann had one of the best opportunities on the resulting power play but was stopped by Price as the Habs defensemen sat around watching like slugs. And just when it looked like the streak had come to an end, armed with the extra man Brooks Laich tallied another net-crashing marker for a fantabulous hat trick and the tie!

Just like Sunday, we were headed to another OT-thanks to the Caps' energizer bunny-type effort in the third. The action-packed OT was filled with impressive saves by both Price and Theo, but a shot from Thomas Plekanec ended the Caps' incredible streak for a final score of Habs 6-Caps 5. How do you say in French -Merde?

The streak has been spectacular and even though they didn't get the win, the boys are playing some jaw-dropping hockey. Theo has been stellar and how about that Laich hat trick? And for all of you Negative Nancys who fill Ted Leonsis' e-mail with silly ramblings about firing this one or that one or complaining about not having enough ketchup for your hot dog, Hockey Mom must remind you that the Capitals are still number one in the league with a hard-earned 89 points! This team has so much to be proud of and are in a fantastic spot to be headed into the Olympic break. The big question here - as a Caps fan, which team will you be cheering on in Vancouver?

Next up for the Caps, the Ottawa Senators tomorrow night at Scotia Bank Place - puck drops at 7!

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