What had been a season of high hopes for the Washington Capitals came to a crashing halt Wednesday night as the Montreal Canadiens completed their rally to claim the best-of-seven series 4-3 with a 2-1 victory at Verizon Center.
The top-ranked offense in the NHL’s regular season was held to just three goals in the series’ last three games, and the top power-play unit in the regular-season finished with just one goal on 33 chances during the seven-game series. Washington, who had taken a 3-1 series lead just a week ago in Montreal, never got the fourth win it needed to advance and dropped three straight to be eliminated from the playoffs.
Conversely, the Canadiens took advantage of a bad Mike Green penalty in the final minute of the first period, as Marc-Andre Bergeron scored with :29.1 left in the frame. Canadiens goalie Jaroslav Halak and a good effort by the Montreal defenders made that tally stand up for nearly the final two periods, frustrating the Caps and the sellout crowd of 18,377 before a late Dominic Moore goal with 3:36 to play proved to be the game-winner.
“We knew right away [we could win the series],” Canadiens forward Brian Gionta said. “Right off the bat of the series. We played them hard the first four games even though we weren’t up in the series, we were happy with how we played them. We knew that we could do some things better and really bring it to them. And that’s what we did the last three.”
Brooks Laich got the Caps’ lone goal with 2:16 to play, and Washington got a chance with the power play when Ryan O’Byrne took a penalty with just 1:44 to play, but couldn’t get the equalizer.
The Caps could not adapt offensively to the Canadiens taking away their space, as several Washington chances were blocked by Montreal defenders. Washington’s 40-goal scorer, Alexander Semin, was held without a goal in the series, as his best chance of the night rang off iron in the first period.
“I think that’s playoff hockey,” Montreal coach Jacques Martin said of his team’s shot-blocking. “I think it’s a commitment by the players. I think they know at this time of the year you’ve got to do everything in your power to win games. It means sometimes taking hits to make play, it means blocking shots, it means to be fully committed.”
Game 7 did not go by without some controversy as well, as an apparent Alexander Ovechkin equalizer in the third period’s first minute was washed out as referee Brad Watson ruled that Mike Knuble was in the crease. That non-tally wiped out the potential equalizer, and the judgment call loomed over the one-goal game.
“That’s a violation that hasn’t been called all year,” Knuble said afterwards. “I felt all night that I wasn’t a crease presence, as far as being in the blue paint, I was right on the edge where I should be, and we talked about it, the referee and I. … You haven’t seen it all year and now it comes out in Game 7.”
After Montreal had jumped out to quick two-goal leads in Games 5 and 6, the first period of Game 7 was much more tentative, with the Caps getting some decent chances but unable to light the lamp — and the Habs cashed in on a bad penalty taken by Green in the final minute.
Caps got two shots on in the first shift, with Ovechkin getting involved in a scrum early after a scoring threat.
The Capitals got their best chance of the period with around eight minutes left to play, as the struggling Semin redirected a Laich feed, but the puck hit the post.
Green gave the dangerous Montreal power-play as he was called for high-sticking with an unnecessary penalty with :41.2 left in the period, and the Habs took advantage, as Bergeron scored with just :29.1 left in the frame to give the Canadiens the early lead.
“It was not a good penalty,” Boudreau said afterwards.
Montreal took the 1-0 edge into the locker room, with the Caps outshooting the Habs 11-8.View Entire Story
Ted Starkey, a Web editor for the continuous news desk, has written for and edited high-traffic websites, including AOL News, AOL Sports, FanHouse.com, USAHockey.com and BuffaloBills.com. He also has covered the 2002 and 2010 Winter Olympics, Stanley Cup playoffs, NFL, NHL, MLB and NCAA hockey during his career.
He is a graduate of American University, with a double major in ...
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