Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Capitals Shut Out Habs in a Critical Win

Work, kids and other miscellaneous duties have kept Hockey Mom from the press box high in the rafters of the Verizon Center. Thanks to holiday vacation, I was able to witness the first meeting between the Capitals and the Habs since the latter so rudely bounced the former from the first round playoffs last season. One of the key differences between then and now is the absence of Montreal net minder Jaroslav Halak, who single-handedly gave the boys fits in the post-season. Carey Price now serves as number one in net for Montreal's finest.

Washington saw the return of Jeff Schultz after suffering a broken thumb, while Mathieu Perreault, Marcus Johannson, Boyd Gordon and Tyler Sloan are still recovering from various bumps and bruises. The ultra confident young Canadiens defense man P.K. Subban was getting involved early and often, while the Caps saw stellar first period energy from the Chimera-Steckel-A. Gordon line. But it was a youngster from Hershey, Jay Beagle, who lit the lamp first for the home team with an absolutely spectacular doozie backhand at 16:20 of the opening period. The guys in stripes drew the ire of Caps faithful late in the first as they whistled off a puck that crossed behind Price as a no-goal. But Mike Green got the last word as he scored with less than 40 seconds left in the period, on a lovely shot he made as he fell to the ice. Shortly thereafter, Travis Moen got called for boarding, tempers flared and the Habs started the second period a man down. End of the first period: Caps 2 - Canadiens 0

One of the Habs best scoring chances came in the opening minutes of the second, but fell short as the stick of P.K. Subban broke mid-shot. Shortly after, Thomas Plekanec took a seat for slashing and the Caps power play went back to work (unsuccessfully to this point I might add, 0-4). Then the boys played a bit of 4-on-4 as Eric Fehr and Max Pacioretty both shuffled to the sin bin for roughing after an all-hands skirmish in the corners. Carey Price stifled several opportune chances by the Caps with consecutive snappy glove saves mid-air. The visitors were called for too many men with a little over seven minutes left, giving the Caps their fifth power play. Unfortunately, the boys continued to struggle on the power play and minutes later, Montreal found themselves a man up thanks to an Alex Semin signature hook. The penalty killers got it done and kept the Habs off the board. Despite not scoring any goals in the middle stanza, the boys gave a good effort with special props to Jay Beagle - who was here, there and everywhere with a few more chances of his own. End of the second period: Caps 2 - Canadiens 0

Thirty seconds into the final period, Montreal's Roman Hamrlik went to the box for slashing. The men in red still could not convert, making them 0-for-6 on the power play for the evening. Seconds later, HM is sure one of her boys was jumping up and down as P.K. Subban got wrecked by Johhny Erskine (the boy is not a fan of the smack talking Habs youngster). Erskine went to the box for interference. The Caps were the recipients of a four-minute power play when Thomas Plekanec took a high-stick to the face of Mike Green. Again, despite a few nice set ups from Ovi and company, the red light remained dark. And the boo birds came out in force in the third every time P.K. Subban touched the puck - new enemy number one, eh? Nah, I think that guy with the cheesy stache that we'll see in a few days still holds that special title but Subban is certainly not making any friends in the nation's capital.

Alex Ovechkin put the icing on the cake with an empty net goal with less than 32 seconds left and for tonight, a small slice of revenge was achieved (stick tap to Semyon Varlamov for an outstanding performance as well). Final Score - Capitals 3 - Habs 0

The mood was light in the locker room (though we didn't witness the fist pump dance) and Mike Green summed up his feelings on the significance of beating the Habs by saying how the team really took this game to heart. He said "they broke our hearts last summer and we all had to live with it for two or three months. You don't forget those things." In the coach's post-game presser, Gabby praised the efforts of the youngsters recently called up (high five to Jay Beagle for winning the hard hat) and admitted he has a hard task ahead of him in putting together Saturday's final roster against the Pens.

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