The Montreal Canadiens have already over-achieved in this year’s playoffs.
They have battled with one of the favorites to lift the Stanley Cup, the Washington Capitals, for much of their playoff series. The hard work was rewarded Monday night as they forced a deciding Game 7 in Washington with a 4-1 win at The Bell Centre in Game 6.
The Habs hadn’t won a playoff game at home in their last six attempts and the presure was on with the Caps needing a win to knock Montreal out of the post-season. However, a 53-save haul from Jaroslav Halak gives Montreal the chance to go for broke and upset Alexander Ovechkin and the Caps.
The decision by Montreal coach Jacques Martin to recall P.K. Subban paid off as the rookie grabbed an assist in his first ever playoff match. Subban’s recall from the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL was a message of intent by Martin. With Washington’s arsenal of fire power, the Habs knew they would need to defend for large periods of the game, and adding a seventh defenceman was vital.
Subban may be inexperienced, but you wouldn’t have known it. He played with confidence, commitment and heart from start to finish and helped rally the Bell Centre crowd.
It is fair to say the Habs needed a lot of luck to get past Washington last night, but they certainly deserved the win. Despite the Canadiens being one of the smallest sides in the league, they upped their physical presence early on, which seemed to take the Caps by surprise.
Mike Cammalleri is finding the form he showed before he became injured during the regaular season, and his two strikes gave the home side an early two-goal lead, and they didn’t look back. Two bullets from Cammalleri had Washington in shock and head coach Bruce Boudreau went for broke early on by putting Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Ovechkin on the same line. However, it was to no avail as Halak was having the best night of his career.
The Caps have been deadly on the power play this season, but their unit is having some problems in this series. Even a two-man advantage couldn’t help Washington onto the board.
The second period was all Washington, as the Habs only managed three shots on goal, the first coming after the ten-minute mark. Despite, being on the back foot for large periods, the Habs could have added to their tally with some quick counter-attacks.
The next goal was going to be key, and some more fortune helped Montreal to a three-goal lead. When Maxim Lapierre scores, it usually means Montreal are having a good night. Lapierre isn’t Montreal’s most regular scorer, but he played with a lot of urgency, and was rewarded with an opportunistic goal.
Halak was under five minutes away from his first career playoff shutout, but the Caps finally broke him to give them a lifeline.
Eric Fehr redirected a shot past Halak, but Montreal kept their cool, with Tomas Plekanec adding an empty-netter. Washington outplayed the Canadiens but the playoffs require something special, and Montreal’s defence was nothing short of spectacular. The big question is whether the Habs have enough left in the tank for game seven on Wednesday night. If Montreal is to cause another upset and take the series, they will need to be more offensive and make the most of power play opportunities.
The Habs are still in the hunt, but they should expect a determined Washington performance in front of an expectant crowd on Wednesday night. Halak was last night’s hero, and he must be at his best again if the Habs are to have any chance.