A Minute to Remember

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 31, 2008

Although the Washington Capitals shouldn't need extra motivation given their tenuous position in the Eastern Conference standings, they'll have plenty tonight when Alex Kovalev and the Montreal Canadiens visit Verizon Center.

One day after the Canadiens crushed the Capitals, 4-0, several Washington players stewed over Kovalev's power-play goal with 47 seconds remaining Tuesday night at Bell Centre, as well as Montreal's multiple attempts to score a fifth goal in the waning moments.

"They tried to embarrass us," right wing Viktor Kozlov said after yesterday's practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. "We have to remember those things and prepare ourselves better. Our memory is fresh and the feeling is fresh."

Defenseman Tom Poti said the Canadiens showed a lack of respect for the Capitals and the game.

"We definitely noticed that they had their best line out there with a minute to go and it was already 3-0," Poti said. "The game was pretty much over and done with. We're going to use that as motivation because we didn't think they respected us.

"This is the National Hockey League, where we respect everyone. You should sit back and let the clock go out when it's 4-0. We made a note of it."

The Capitals' defense struggled in the loss. But the banged-up blueline could receive a boost if Shaone Morrisonn is able to play. One of the team's best players in recent months, he's missed two straight games -- and three total -- since being struck on the right foot by a slap shot on Jan. 19.

Morrisonn practiced -- though he appeared uncomfortable at times -- and later said he would decide whether to suit up for tonight's game after the morning skate.

"Nothing for sure right now, but it is better," he said. "It's frustrating. But if I'm not 100 percent, or capable of playing my game, then I'm not much good out there and I'm not going to help the team."

The Capitals could have used Morrisonn's smooth skating stride and stay-at-home sensibilities Tuesday. The speedy Canadiens preyed on Washington's mistake-prone play early and raced out to a 3-0 lead, an edge they took into the final minutes.

Capitals defenseman Jeff Schultz was sent to the penalty box for hooking with 1 minute 3 seconds remaining. But instead of sitting on the lead, the Canadiens kept their top offensive players on the ice, and Kovalev, the team's leading scorer, struck 16 seconds later. Tomas Plekanec (Montreal's second-leading scorer) and Mark Streit received the assists.

The Canadiens attempted three more shots over the final 29 seconds as they wrapped up their third straight win and fifth in six games. The Capitals suffered their second defeat in three games.

"Their D-men were pinching in and trying to score goals," defenseman Mike Green said. "The game was pretty much over. The good thing is we play them again -- and we're ready."

Asked if he planned to address the final minute of Tuesday's game with his players before the opening faceoff tonight, Coach Bruce Boudreau said, 'We'll use anything that works."

Canadiens Coach Guy Carbonneau, meantime, defended his late-game personnel decisions.

"I played long enough in the NHL and Boudreau played long enough to know that a three-goal lead is never safe, even with three minutes to play," he told reporters in Montreal yesterday. "I have lost some three goal leads before. The day that I will step my foot off the pedal in this situation, I will stop coaching."

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