The Capitals faced Carey Price instead of the familiar Jaroslav Halak minding the crease tonight for Les Canadiens. There were also a few new faces on the ice as Glen Metropolit returned from injury and Ryan O’Byrne was donning the red sweater in for an ailing Jaro Spacek. Quick to jump on the young net minder Price in last year’s playoffs causing him to go all “Patrick Roy” with the obscene gestures, the raucous Canadiens fans cheered him on the early part of the first period.
The Capitals were hoping to get the mojo back in their power play, which prior to puck drop was a dismal 0-14. The scrappy Habs gave the visitors the man-advantage early on (48 seconds into the game to be exact) as Tomas Plekanec was whistled for interference. The Caps went to work and their fans sat in front of their televisions with baited breath, waiting to see if we’d see more of the same. The boys didn’t score on the first PP chance, but the missing power play returned around the eight minute mark. Andrei Kostisyn took a seat for high sticking (though the refs completely missed another one that practically took off Joe Corvo’s beak) and once again, the boys tried to get the power play jump started. Alex Ovechkin got some help from pals Mike Green and Nick Backstrom and sizzled a steaming wrist shot past Price at 8:10 to get the Capitals on the board first and end the power play drought.
The Canadiens evened the score about a minute later as a crowd formed in front of Varly’s crease and Mike Cammalleri netted a backhander while the guys in white sweaters were looking I’m not sure where (I told you that one was a sneaky bugger). The final minutes saw Tomas Fleischmann skate off to the sin bin for tripping but the boys had a big penalty kill and went into the intermission tied. End of first period: Capitals 1 – Canadiens 1
Eric Fehr had a great scoring opportunity flying down the ice on all four cylinders and literally “crashing the net” in the early minutes of the second. Price and his cronies were none too happy with F-16 knocking the net off the moorings, but hey, it’s playoff hockey kids. Matt Bradley took a high stick on Andrei Markov and the Canadiens' scary power play unit hit the ice. Brooks Laich was working it on the penalty kill sacrificing the body to block a shot and Varly was absolutely spectacular with a highlight glove save on Cammalleri. Varlamov literally stood on his head with a series of magnificent stops (Montreal outshot the Caps 21-9 in the second). At the other end, a huge scrum ensued and Jason Chimera was the unlucky guy called for roughing. Brian Gionta was also seen in the scrum trying to mix it up with Tom Poti and he got his payback at 15:42 with a power play tally. Both teams had a well-trodden path to the penalty box as big Hal Gill was cited for a hold and in the madness that is the Bell Centre, the Capitals took a too many men call. As Alex Ovechkin served the two minutes, his assistant captain Mike Knuble tied the game with a shorthanded goal (thanks to some swift skating and the assist from Boyd Gordon). End of the second period: Capitals 2 – Canadiens 2
In the final period, the spotlight was definitely on the two young goaltenders. One of the Capital's best scoring chances came at the middle of the third period when Mike Green passed the puck to Knuble for what appeared to be a spot on goal. Carey Price stood tall for his team snatching the biscuit out of mid-air. Shortly thereafter, the momentum completely shifted in the Capital’s favor. The hard working Mike Knuble went to sit just a spell and Gabby put Alex Semin on the line with his pals Ovechkin and Backstrom. At around the 11 minute marker, Sasha passed the puck up to his partner in crime and Ovechkin roofed one over Carey Price. 52 seconds later, team mate Jason Chimera gave the boys some nice padding as he scored with help from fellow grinder Matt Bradley. At 17:33, Mike Knuble added even more extra insurance with an empty netter as Price sat on the Habs’ bench for the extra body on the ice. The Canadiens got a very late goal from Dominic Moore but it was too little, too late. Nick Backstrom put the final fork in the Habs with the Capitals’ second empty netter and Game 4 was in the books. Final score: Capitals 6 – Canadiens 3
Despite giving Montreal a few too many chances in the second period, the Capitals tightened up defensively and again, spread the scoring wealth around. You can’t say enough about Varlamov’s extraordinary performance tonight, stopping 36 shots. Speaking of goalies, Carey Price is most certainly not in this year’s running for the Lady Byng award (given to the NHLer cited for the best sportsmanship). After the Caps netted the second empty net goal, Price whacked goal scorer Nick Backstrom in the back of legs from his seat on the bench. Hockey Mom will most certainly use Messieur Price as a future example when lecturing my boys about being a “sore loser.” But on a more positive note, a big Hockey Mom toast to the Caps for a terrific Game 4 win - let’s wrap this series up at home on Friday!