Facing a Washington Capitals team that was coming off a 4-game winning streak, the Montreal Canadiens weren’t particularly up to the challenge. That might almost be expected when coming off an emotional and important divisional win, but the Canadiens are looking to make up ground on the first place Pittsburgh Penguins. It wouldn’t come tonight, as they lost 3-2 to the Washington Capitals, despite making it interesting in the third period.
The Canadiens, for one of the few times this season, came out flat and uninspired to start the game. Not sure if this is tied to the emotional letdown of facing the Caps after beating Boston, but in any case, the shots were 8-0 for the Caps before the game was 4 minutes old. As the period went on, the Northeast Division leading Canadiens started to find their footing and went up 1-0 on a goal by Lars Eller. A reinvigorated Alex Galchenyuk would make a nice move to cut to the inside and dish the puck to Brandon Prust, who would miss his first shot but manage to make a blind pass to Eller bearing down in the slot, who made no mistake in potting his 5th of the season. The period would end with the Capitals outshooting the Canadiens 11-7, with Carey Price making a series of absolutely stellar saves on point blank opportunities.
The second period horror show returned and wiped away most of the Canadiens momentum. The Capitals would score two quick goals under 2 minutes apart: a laser from Alex Ovechkin and a bit of a funny one from Eric Fehr. As excellent as Price was in the first, he was fairly beatable in the second. He didn’t seem to have the same focus and a few of the ones that got by him looked stoppable. Not entirely his fault, but he probably needed to make a save on at least the second Caps goal. In the third, the Caps would extend their lead to 3-1 off a Jack Hillen goal, but the Canadiens would bring themselves to within 1 goal with only about 4 minutes left to play with Eller‘s second of the evening, deflecting a Nathan Beaulieu shot with the secondary assist going to Galchenyuk. Despite a furious end to the game, the Canadiens couldn’t get the equalizer and the Capitals would skate off with the win.
– I liked the line combinations that Therrien came up with in the 3rd and I suspect that these are probably the ones moving forward now that Rene Bourque is back. I like Bourque with Plekanec and Gionta, and I think Ryder with Eller and Galchenyuk can be a fantastic third line threat. Prust, sadly, should probably be on the 4th line with Moen and Halpern anyway, but he can be moved up or down the lineup depending on need. Nice to have depth isn’t it? The Canadiens finally have a good 3 lines that be scoring threats.
– Speaking of Bourque, I thought he looked fantastic tonight and definitely deserved to move up from the 4th to the 2nd tonight. 4 SOG in only 11 mins of ice-time and was hitting on the regular also. Great addition to the team going into the stretch run.
– I like how Davis Drewiske acquitted himself on the 2nd pairing tonight. Though he was unspectacular but made the right plays. Won’t replace everything Emelin brings to the table, but he was solid for sure.
– Under the non-Habs related news, how about Alex Ovechkin? His career isn’t quite over yet… Sure looked like his old self tonight. Hitting, scoring and altogether dominant in the offensive zone.
All in all, the Canadiens put up a good fight but came up short. At this point in the season, need to look forward to the next game and try to keep pace with the Penguins. Worth noting that if the playoffs started today, we’d have a Rangers-Canadiens matchup on our hands. Something to think about for sure…