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2010 Playoffs Rewind: Round 1 Game 4 — Strong third period gives Capitals 3-1 series lead

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A late second period goal spells doom for the Canadiens as they head to the brink of elimination.

Washington Capitals v Montreal Canadiens - Game Four Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

After coming in relief in game three, Carey Price will make his first start of the series in game four. Both teams also bring some lineup changes.

Jaroslav Spacek is out with an injury for Montreal, so Ryan O’Byrne draws in for his first appearance of the series. After sitting out game three, Sergei Kostitsyn is in for Mathieu Darche as the Canadiens are looking for the right combination on their fourth line.

For the Capitals, they go with the same lineup up front, but Tyler Sloan suits up for Shaone Morrisonn on the blue line.

Lineups

Montreal Canadiens

Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Left Wing Centre Right Wing
13- Mike Cammalleri 14- Tomas Plekanec 46- Andrei Kostitsyn
57- Benoit Pouliot 91- Scott Gomez 21- Brian Gionta
32- Travis Moen 42- Dominic Moore 40- Maxim Lapierre
94- Tom Pyatt 15- Glen Metropolit 74- Sergei Kostitsyn

Defence

Left Defence Right Defence
Left Defence Right Defence
79- Andrei Markov 20- Ryan O'Byrne
47- Marc-Andre Bergeron 44- Roman Hamrlik
75- Hal Gill 26- Josh Gorges

Goaltenders

Goaltenders
Goaltenders
31- Carey Price
41- Jaroslav Halak

SCRATCHES: Jaroslav Spacek (INJ), Georges Laraque, Mathieu Darche, Ben Maxwell

Washington Capitals

Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Left Wing Centre Right Wing
8- Alex Ovechkin 19- Nicklas Backstrom 22- Mike Knuble
14- Tomas Fleischmann 18- Eric Belanger 28- Alexander Semin
21- Brooks Laich 9- Brendan Morrison 16- Eric Fehr
25- Jason Chimera 15- Boyd Gordon 10- Matt Bradley

Defence

Left Defence Right Defence
Left Defence Right Defence
55- Jeff Schultz 52- Mike Green
3- Tom Poti 74- John Carlson
89- Tyler Sloan 77- Joe Corvo

Goaltenders

Goaltenders
Goaltenders
40- Semyon Varlamov
60- Jose Theodore

SCRATCHES: John Erskine, Milan Jurcina (INJ), David Steckel, Scott Walker, Quintin Laing, Shaone Morrisonn


Full Highlights


On the first shift of the game, Tomas Plekanec knocks down Mike Green with a shoulder to the sternum. Unfortunately, the puck was nowhere in the vicinity, and Washington heads off to an early man advantage.

NN: The TSN guys had just finished saying that the Cammalleri-Plekanec-Kostitsyn line were minus-four last game, so Plekanec clearly wanted to set a physical tone. In a bit of foreshadowing, he was just a little too overeager.

JB: The announcers also lead into the power play saying the Capitals have gone 0/14 in the series on the power play. Later they say including the regular season it was 3/31. And they have Mike Green and Alex Ovechkin. I was 100% expecting them to score here.

The Capitals power play continues to sputter, making it 15 straight without a goal this series. Halfway through, during a stoppage, Pierre McGuire utters: “For Jacques Martin, he had to make a real difficult decision. Does he stay with Jaroslav Halak, who’s really struggling, or does he go with Carey Price, who had a lot of success in the regular season against the Washington Capitals? The big body presence of Price wins out over the smaller guy Halak, and given how the Capitals have been crashing the crease this series, I think it’s the right decision by Jacques Martin.”

NN: There were a lot of potential reasons to pick Price over Halak—sparking the team, Price had a decent performance to close out game three, change for the sake of change, whatever. I don’t think anyone was going for the MOARBIG angle though... so thanks, Pierre, for that classic.

JB: Bet you Pierre would have gone with Gilbert Brule if he had the choice. Sorry. Too easy.

Gord helpfully chimes in, after Pierre’s done talking, with: “Carey Price has lost his last seven playoff starts.”

About a quarter of the way through the first period, Pierre opines “they’re not going to get a lot of cycle chances against Washington, they’re just too small, Montreal.” Plekanec and Kostitsyn immediately combine for two good scoring opportunities off a down-low cycle against physical giant Joe Corvo.

NN: I swear this game isn’t just going to be picking on Pierre McGuire, but... fish, barrel...

With just under eight minutes elapsed, Andrei Kostitsyn takes a high-sticking penalty off a faceoff in the Washington zone. This time, the Capitals power play makes no mistake, and it’s Alex Ovechkin snapping a wrister off the post and in.

NN: Two offensive zone penalties by a big line that went minus-four last game is not a good sign. Carey Price sitting back in his net against an onrushing Ovechkin is not a good sign. A lot of “not good signs” early on.

JB: Believe it or not, I was expecting a more lopsided start. But that was typical Ovechkin, and also typical early-career Price.

Jacques Martin’s response: put Mike Cammalleri at centre, flanked by Sergei Kostitsyn and Glen Metropolit. Naturally, Cammalleri wins the offensive zone faceoff, Roman Hamrlik sends the puck down low, and some good work by Metropolit results in a centering pass and a Cammalleri goal to tie the game.

NN: Too small to cycle, eh Pierre? Both Washington defenders failed to pursue Metropolit behind the net and Cammalleri just flat outmuscled Eric Fehr.

JB: I was not expecting this game to get tied. You talk about a lot of bad signs about this game, but Montreal’s fight after giving up leads and early goals was a good sign for the series. Martin didn’t play the fourth line a lot at all, so this was a way for Cammalleri to get an extra shift and it worked out.

Jeff Schultz going after Metropolit behind the red line to leave Cammalleri open in front was a nice touch.

In contrast to the tightly structured Habs team that surfaced in Washington, game four is frenetic and disorganized. Both teams fling pucks at piles of bodies swarming the net, hoping for luck to intercede. Defensive planning amounts to mad scrambles over fallen bodies and around flat-footed players. With three minutes left in the period, Andrei Markov is tripped, causing him to miss a glorious chance at the lip of the crease. The Canadiens can’t cash on the power play though, and the period ends shortly after with the score 1-1.

NN: It hasn’t been a polished or poised performance, but once again, the Canadiens are going toe-to-toe, punch-for-punch, with the President’s Trophy winners. This is hardly David hoping to get in one good sling against Goliath.

JB: This series was always closer than it appeared on the ice. But there are still 40 minutes in the game.


The second period starts in a calmer fashion. The Canadiens get two great chances though before the first five minutes are up. First, Sergei Kostitsyn throws a puck on net during a three-on-two that Semyon Varlamov keeps out by sheer athleticism. Next, Tom Poti makes a great pokecheck to prevent Cammalleri from cutting in alone with the puck.

NN: In games one and two—and the first half of three—one of those would have gone in.

JB: Yeah, if Theodore was still playing.

Halfway through the second period, and it’s definitely Montreal having the better rub of the green. Period shots were 7-3 home team with 12 minutes remaining. When Matt Bradley high sticks Andrei Markov with seven-and-a-half minutes to go in the period, it looks like a golden opportunity for the Canadiens to make up for game three. The Habs get more from this man advantage than their previous one, but Varlamov holds the fort, absolutely robbing first Cammalleri at the side of the net and then Hamrlik off the ensuing faceoff.

NN: It’s pretty much forgotten now, but through four games, the “Ken Dryden/Cam Ward” unsung hero goaltending story in this series wasn’t Halak, it was Varlamov. The series might have been a Montreal sweep if Theodore stayed in goal.

JB: I told you I had those vibes in game two.

Continued Montreal pressure immediately forces Washington into taking another penalty, and this time the Habs break through. A point shot ricochets off the end boards and back into Varlamov’s body, and as the young Russian netminder contorts to find the puck, Brian Gionta picks it out and deposits it in the back of the Washington net.

NN: 2-1 with under five to go in the second. Habs taking it to the Caps. Price playing a solid game after some early jitters. Jaroslav-who?

JB: I literally had zero recollection of this game being so close, and I definitely didn’t remember Montreal having a lead. There were certainly warning signs all over the place that made this series a lot closer than it appeared.

Also the Canadiens goal scorers? Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta. Too small, eh?

One last thing: Montreal at the time of the goal was outshooting Washington 19-6 in the second period.

Washington doesn’t go quietly though. A heavy shift in the Montreal end is followed by Hal Gill dragging down Ovechkin as he attempted to split the D. Fifteen seconds into the man advantage, Varlamov makes his third magnificent glove save of the period, this time robbing Plekanec on a two-on-two rush.

Varlamov’s efforts bear fruit, but in a most circuitous fashion. The Capitals power play is snuffed out by a too-many-men penalty, and as the Canadiens looked to coast to the second intermission with the man advantage, a sloppy change and a bad read by Hamrlik leads to a Washington shorthanded two-on-one. Boyd Gordon saucers a beauty to Mike Knuble, and we’re tied 2-2 with six seconds left in the frame.

NN: A shorthanded goal was the dagger in game three, and it would turn out to be the beginning of the end in game four. This is almost the inverse of game one, and certainly the inverse of games five, six and seven. Washington is escaping thanks to stellar goaltending and opportunistic offence.

JB: For all the good Montreal did, an avoidable goal against in the last minute takes away all momentum and they will have to fight for the go ahead goal all over again.

Wait, what year is this game from again?


Unsurprisingly, the Capitals jump out in the third period with all guns blazing. The Canadiens and Price do well to weather the storm, and by the five-minute mark, they’ve begun to play themselves back into the game.

NN: This is a great sign for a team that wilted under pressure in game three. The final result of the game aside, the Habs appear back to their resilient ways.

JB: I’m sure this will age well.

By the midway point, the game hangs finely in the balance. Scott Gomez misses a chance in the slot, Price stops Knuble with a clear path to goal, and Sergei Kostitsyn whiffs a one-timer over the net.

NN: This is agonizing, even a decade later. The Habs are getting chances and just can’t cash. A fan here, a whiff here, a miss there. Montreal could easily have four or five goals by now.

JB: I mean, if we’re going to talk about teams getting chances and not getting goals out if it, the Canadiens may as well complain while they can...

Jean Beliveau was in the crowd, as he often was. The TSN camera pans upon him with the caption “won 10 Stanley Cups”.

NN: I like to imagine there was some guy in the truck given the task of “sum up Jean Beliveau in four words or less” and just sweating bullets in panic.

Missed opportunities come back to roost, and Alex Ovechkin drives a stake into the hearts of the Bell Centre faithful with nine minutes remaining. Alex Semin fights off Gomez’s backcheck, Josh Gorges makes a fateful decision to step up on Semin, and Ovechkin glides into the open space, takes the pass, dekes Hal Gill into oblivion, and snaps a wrister past Price.

NN: If it still needs to be said, the accusations that Ovechkin “choked” during this series were just flat out ridiculous. Scored the 3-4 goal to keep his team’s momentum going in game two, scored both the opening and critical go-ahead goal for Washington in game four. Ovechkin was on a GPG pace until Halak turned up the goalie difficulty in settings.

JB: Some players, and some teams, just have that extra gear and Washington went to it often in the series. I never understood Washington blaming specific people for the loss (other than Halak) but you have to wonder what would have happened if Corsi was a big thing in 2010.

Before the Habs can get their bearings, a good fourth line shift for Washington results in a Jason Chimera goal. Matt Bradley does most of the work, evading both Dominic Moore and Hamrlik, and the rest of the Habs are caught puck watching. To make matters worse, Price gets a two minute minor for firing the puck into the celebrating Capitals.

NN: The team was in a state of complete shock here. No one was skating, no one was executing off instinct, and Washington went for the kill.

JB: The Canadiens, for the most part, played a good game but their mistakes ended up in the back of the net. The goalie didn’t bail them out, and the Capitals had too much skill to miss.

The Washington power play ends without incident, and Montreal now needs two goals in six minutes to avoid going down 3-1 in the series. It’s not likely, and the team and the crowd have an air of resignation about them. When Andrei Kostitsyn is hauled down with three minutes to go and the score still 4-2, the roar of umbrage around the Bell Centre is half-hearted at best.

NN: In game one, the Capitals were tight and the Canadiens were relaxed. Now the tables are turned and the Habs can’t string together crisp passes or execute breakouts or zone entries.

With 2:35 remaining, and after a Washington icing, Martin pulls Price for an extra attacker. The Habs can’t secure the faceoff though, and Knuble seals the game from centre ice. Moore delays the inevitable with a nifty backhander a minute later, but a second empty-netter, this time from Nicklas Backstrom, puts the game to rest for good. 6-3 Capitals is the final, and the Canadiens go back to Washington facing elimination.

JB: Montreal was outscored 11-4 in their two home games after coming home with the series tied 1-1. Not the response they would have wanted. Good news is, the series isn’t over until you lose four games.