The Montreal Canadiens have done what a dozen teams could not do: end the Washington Capitals record-shattering win streak. The game felt like a trap from the opening minute when Scott Gomez triangulated a goal on Michal Neuvirth. It was the second period, however, when everything went pear-shaped. In that period the Caps had only one goal (by Nick Backstrom) to answer a whopping four from Montreal.
Entering the final frame, the Capitals faced a 3-goal deficit. Mike Green erased one of those marks in the first minutes, followed by Brooks Laich nine minutes later. After relying on back-up goalie Jose Theodore to defuse the surging Montreal offense, the Caps waited until the final minute of play to even it up. Employing a gentle deflection, Brooks Laich evened the game up, earned his first hat trick, and secured a guarantee of at least one point.
But then Tomas Plekanec proved to be one man too many for the overwhelmed Caps defense. Before we even had a moment to process it, the streak had ended. Habs beat Caps 6-5. Wah wah wah.
Now’s the part where we blame people:
- Michal Neuvirth absconded the net early in the second period. During the post game, Coach BB says Mikey reported an injury during a time-out and volunteered to come out. No one on the Caps staff seemed surprised by the exit, which sheds a bit of light on the team’s decision to bring Semyon “Groin Invictus” Varlamov on this Canadian jaunt. We may yet see our third Russian Machine before the Olympic break.
- We have no ill words for either goalie tonight. Both made several implausible stops, and both were caught unawares by the trampling offense of the Habs. No one player is to blame for the six goals Montreal snatched tonight. Instead, let’s altogether wag our collective fingers at the Caps’ wobbly defense.
- Mike Green was quite the player tonight. His slapper to start the third showed us that the team desperately wanted the win. Another rocket hit Josh Gorges square in the ear, adding to the body count from Caps’ shots. Green also showed us some a smart defensive move when timing a dive during a 2-on-1 breakaway in the first period. Those are the only good marks we can mention right now. For the rest of the night, @GreenLife52 was just as meh as the other 5 D-men.
- The Caps’ second goal of the night was a gobstopping passing sequence from the top line and finalized by Nick Backstrom. While this play may have dumbfounded us with its air of effortlessness, this kind of thing cannot be good for the team. Globetrotter tricks may look cool (as hell), but they’re much easier to interrupt than more straightforward attacks. The top line might benefit from taking a cue from Captain America, John Carlson: when in doubt, just shoot the damn puck.
- Alex Ovechkin (BTW 29:30 TOI, WTF BBQ) scored an unorthodox goal halfway into the second period. Instead of shooting the puck, Ovie slugged puck-carrier Hal Gill, sending the disc sliding past a tremulant Carey Price. The goal would have kept the win inside Washington’s grasp, but the call on the ice was reversed after it was reviewed. We were not made privy to the reasoning for the reversal until after game time, but here’s what we’ve learned since: nothing. I cannot find a salient reason for this call. If the Russian Machine world headquarters were not buried under meters of snow, I’d travel up to Toronto and give the Powers That Be a polite, but strongly worded talking-to.
- Brendan Morrison‘s two minor penalties robbed the Caps of four much-needed minutes in which they might score. If B-Mo is going to commit penalties with the same frequency of Alexander Semin, he better start scoring like he as well. Tonight’s performance brings into focus all those pesky trade rumors about centers we keep hearing. Hurm…
- The music choices at the Bell Centre were abyssmal. I heard “Down Under” by Men at Work, a song mercifully given respite for the last 20 years, resurrected and foully pumped through their speakers. And then I heard a DANCE REMIX of Kings of Leon’s “Sex on Fire”, a gruesome mutant of a recording whose creation could be possible only through the combined efforts of Satan and the guy who gave the Tonight Show back to Jay Leno. For this reason alone Montreal does not deserve victory.
- Brooks Laich wanted the win tonight more than any other player out there. If his net-crashing antics in the first period were all he offered, we still would have been proud. But little Brooksy hoisted the Washington Capitals on his shoulders and scored two more. That last goal, a velvet kiss with his blade, might have been a play worthy of poem and song if it led to the win. Unfortunately, the story of the impossible comeback turned out to be exactly that: impossible.. Our hearts weep for Brooksy; he deserved a celebration tonight. When Bruce Boudreau lectured the boys for being sloppy and out of sync tonight, I hope Laich was far away, perhaps building little snovechkins outside the Bell Centre.
I’ve been a fan of this team since 1997 (except for the dark days of ’01-’04), and I’ve never seen anything like the camaraderie and joy the current incarnation brings to every game. So, yes, while we do mourn the death of The Streak, we look forward with bright eyes and foamy mugs to the wonderful future. It’s a long way ’til June, but I know we’ll get there.