- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 20, 2010

MONTREAL | While Verizon Center has developed a reputation as one of the loudest buildings in the league in recent years, their opponent in the first round certainly has a boisterous building of its own — boosted by a long hockey tradition in the Quebec city.

While the 14-year-old Bell Centre doesn’t quite have the illustrious history of the old Montreal Forum, where the Canadiens won 24 Stanley Cups, there was a ton of energy in the building Monday night as the Montreal opened its playoff home slate.

The crowd was into the game before the puck even dropped, derisively chanting “Tay-O” — loudly — during Washington’s warmups, as former Canadiens goaltender Jose Theodore faced shots from his teammates before he took his place on the bench during the contest.

“They were chanting ‘Theo,’ that was crazy,” Eric Fehr said.

Once the game started, the crowd was roaring, starting cheers — unprompted by the scoreboard — and trying to fuel the Canadiens’ upset hopes. Montreal came out flying in the first as well, getting several good scoring chances on starting netminder Semyon Varlamov.

With Thedore not playing, the crowd also turned its attention to Ovechkin, booing the Caps star whenever he touched the puck, serenading him with chants of “O-vie” and also adding in a slightly more vulgar chant to the mix.

“I don’t hear it,” Ovechkin said. “I play the game, I play hockey.”

Still, even though they were the object of the crowd’s ire, the Caps enjoyed playing in the hostile environment.

“I think the whole team loves to play here, [it’s] a good atmosphere,” Ovechkin said. “Unbelivable place. They have fans like ours.”

“Sometimes you forget how much fun it is when the opposing building is so alive, it’s makes you want to be a hockey player,” Boudreau said.

With the crowd being so into the contest, quieting it was one of Washington’s goals in Game 3.

“It was loud, and it was crazy — crazy in good way,” Boudreau said. “It was energetic and tremendous. But our goal if we could get out of the first period, and we did, so we felt good about ourselves.”

And, thanks to three goals in the first 8:33 of the second period, it really dampened the crowd’s enthusiasm. After Jaroslav Halak was pulled, the only thing the crowd had to cheer was a third-period goal that briefly entertained the crowd’s comeback hopes. However, there were a lot of empty seats left once the final siren went off in the 5-1 Capitals win with little reaction from the crowd.

“We quieted them down a little bit in the second period which helped us,” Fehr said.

And, with Game 4 ahead, Fehr knows the goal will be the same Wednesday night.

“They’re such a loud crowd,” he said. “We’ve got to go out and play.”

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