- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Capitals had a chance to close out their series against the Canadiens Friday night at Verizon Center, but a pair of markers in the first 7:01 of play kept Montreal alive in the best-of-seven series with a 2-1 win.

Michael Cammalleri and Travis Moen both beat Washington netminder Semyon Varlamov early as the Habs turned up the pressure with their season on the line. Although Alexander Ovechkin cut the lead to a single goal in the second period, Canadiens netminder Jaroslav Halak was able to hold off the late surge from Washington to force a sixth game Monday night at Bell Center.

After seeing Carey Price melt down in Game 4 in Montreal, coach Jacques Martin’s decision to switch back to Halak for Game 5 was critical, as he was able to stop 37 of 38 shots he faced and keep the series going.

“I think that [Halak] started the series, and even when I pulled him, it wasnt because he wasnt playing well,” Martin said afterwards. “I think that I pulled him, trying to change the momentum in Game 3. … Tonight, coming back here, I felt that he would bounce back with a strong performance.”

Caps coach Bruce Boudreau was visibly irritated after his club’s performance.

“We have Game 5 in our building, and we play like crap the first 10 minutes and the game is over,” he said. “We’re not getting 20 guys playing. We’re getting 13 and 14 guys every night, rather than everybody coming to play. Tonight we had five or six passengers again.”

While he didn’t name the players — although he was critical of Semin during a later question — he did say he’d strongly consider lineup changes for Game 6.

“They came out and had a good start,” Brendan Morrison said. “They got the two quick goals on us. Even though we had 15 shots, we had way too many breakdowns in the first period. We knew they were going to come out. Their backs were against the wall and they outplayed us in the first 20 minutes. We made way too many glaring mistakes.”

Facing elimination, Montreal had a nice chance right off the opening faceoff, as Brian Gionta broke in and got a good look at Varlamov, but the netminder stopped the chance.

However, the Canadiens did strike just 90 seconds into the game as Michael Cammalleri rifled a shot past Varlamov for a 1-0 lead.

Montreal then increased their lead with 7:01 gone, as Travis Moen was left alone in front and he put a backhander past Varlamov.

“Our team usually scores three to four goals because we have a very good attack,” Varlamov said via a translator. “We weren’t panicking. The first thing we needed to do was get a hold of our emotions and keep playing our game.”

The Caps got a good chance to reverse the early Montreal momentum as Ryan O’Byrne was called for holding with 11:56 left in the period, but it was the Canadiens that had the best scoring chances during the power play. Washington got another chance with :02 left in the first infraction as Tomas Plekanec was called for high-sticking, but again the Caps couldn’t muster a whole lot with the extra man.

Washington got a couple of good scoring chances on Halak with just under five minutes to play, with Alexander Semin getting a couple of close-in shots that the Canadiens’ netminder stopped to keep Montreal up 2-0.

While Washington outshot Montreal 15-9, it was the visitors that held a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.

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