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Varlamov also settled in, making some of his best saves in the middle portion of the period, particularly one where Scott Gomez fed Benoit Pouliot in front, but kept the Caps within a goal for the first half of the second period.

Montreal got that two-goal edge back when Kostitsyn potted second of the night, as he moved in down low in front of the cage and took a nice Cammalleri pass and beat Varlamov with 8:54 left to play in the second.

The Canadiens then cashed in on a good chance to really take command with Brooks Laich in the box, as Jaroslav Spacek’s shot was deflected by Kostitsyn past Varlamov with 2:16 to play. The goal was Kostitsyn’s third of the night, and the Caps were squarely in danger falling behind in the series 0-2 for the second straight year.

But the three-goal deficit seemed to spark the Caps to action, and they managed to rally with three unanswered tallies.

“We were a desperate team,” Fleischmann said afterwards of the rally. “If we got behind two games in the series it would be really tough for us to come back. We were a desperate team — that was the difference.”

Backstrom got the Caps back to within two, taking a shot with Mike Knuble creating traffic in front of Halak, cutting the lead to 4-2 with 1:37 left in the frame.

“We have that side of our team — we never give up,” Backstrom said. “The second period was kind of embarrassing for us. But we bounced back.”

Washington nearly cut it to one when Tom Poti had a good look in front in the period’s final minute, but his drive was stopped point-blank by Halak in the final minute of the period.

The Capitals capped the period with their first power play of the night, as Cammalleri was called for slashing with just :20.9 left, opening the door for the Caps to move closer.

Washington didn’t convert with the extra man, but did use the momentum gained with the extra man to pull within one.

Ovechkin got his first goal of the playoffs with 2:56 gone in the period, as Carlson blasted a shot from the blueline which Halak stopped. However, Ovechkin lunged for the puck, poking it between the goalie’s pads to pull the Caps within one.

Ovechkin got involved in a scrum on the next shift, as Pouliot barreled into Varlamov on a scoring chance. After Gionta put the puck where the cage was, celebrating like he had scored after the collision, Ovechkin took exception to the late shot. Scott Gomez then came from behind and whacked the Caps’ captain, and Tom Poti dropped the gloves with Gomez for the first fight of the series with 3:30 gone in the third.

However, what momentum the Caps got from the goal and fight was nearly slowed by an Alexander Semin penalty with 4:13 gone in the period, giving the Habs a chance to take back the momentum. Washington’s penalty killers did keep the game to a one-goal affair with a strong kill.

The Caps then sent the sellout crowd into a frenzy just before the halfway mark of the frame, as Ovechkin fed Backstrom in front of the net for his second goal of the night with 10:13 to play. Backstrom broke in front of Halak and tipped an Ovechkin pass past the goaltender before he had a chance to set for the shot, and pulled Washington even.

After failing to cash in on a Hal Gill interference call, Montreal retook the lead as Tomas Pleckanec — the overtime hero in Game 1 — made his bid for his second game-winning goal of the series.

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