- The Washington Times - Monday, April 26, 2010


Before their first-round series with Montreal, the Capitals talked about how they wanted to avoid a long, drawn-out series with the Canadiens, and avoid the tiring process of having to play a seven-game series.

Well, after dropping a 4-1 decision at Bell Centre on Monday night, Washington is now headed into its fourth straight playoff series with a decisive Game 7.

While Jaroslav Halak was strong in net for the Canadiens Monday night, Washington certainly didn’t help its own cause by failing to take advantage of having a one-minute fifteen-second, 5-on-3 power play in the first period, getting too cute with the puck and failing to send the puck in tight to try and poke one past Halak.

Instead, the Caps just got a repeat of Friday night’s loss on home ice, where they fell behind in the first 10 minutes by two goals and didn’t muster enough offense to overcome another sluggish start.

Halak, Cammalleri helps Montreal tip Caps

After Michael Cammalleri scored twice in the first 9:09 of the contest, the Caps then allowed the Habs to nurse their edge for the remaining 50:49 of the contest to erase Washington’s 3-1 series lead. Washington poured on 50-plus shots on Halak as Montreal hung back and let their goaltender carry the load, and it worked for the hosts.

Maxim Lapierre added to Washington’s misery with a goal early in the third period, meaning Eric Fehr finally breaking the shutout late in the third was too little, too late for the Caps.

With Halak playing well and the Caps missing some prime chances, the frustration began to mount and now the team has less than 48 hours to figure out how to solve their problems.

So, for the Capitals, their Presidents’ Trophy season will come down to the result of Game 7 Wednesday night.

Should the Capitals advance, they would survive to face what figures to be a bruising series with the Philadelphia Flyers on little rest. If Washington loses, it certainly would go up as one of the all-time ugly collapses by the franchise — one that has had some epic collapses in past seasons — as the team would have squandered a commanding 3-1 series lead against an eighth-seeded opponent that didn’t qualify for the postseason until their final game of the season.

Regardless of the outcome of this series, this will certainly raise questions about the team’s killer instinct. After pushing the Canadiens to the brink of elimination last Wednesday, the Caps have scored exactly two goals in 120 minutes since.

While part of their offensive drought is the play of Halak, Washington reverted to some bad habits the past two games — overpassing the puck and not taking advantage of the league’s best power play.

Thanks to an 0-for-6 outage Monday, the Caps fell to 1-for-30 in the series, meaning Washington has actually been more successful with the penalty kill in six games (scoring twice) against the Canadiens than with the extra man.

Game 7s have been a mixed bag for the Capitals the last three seasons, with just a 1-2 mark with all three games on Verizon Center ice.

The Caps lost in 2008 to the Flyers in overtime to end that season in the first round. Washington then completed a rally from a 3-1 series deficit against the Rangers in the first round last season before turning in a terrible performance against the Penguins in the deciding game of the second round.

For all the accolades the Caps have earned in 2009-10, it won’t mean a whole lot if the team squanders this series with perhaps the best club in franchise history and leave the club with a bitter offseason to ponder how the season came unglued so quickly.

And now, it will come down to the result of the series’ final 60 minutes — or perhaps more with overtime — on Wednesday, somewhere the Capitals didn’t want to be.

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