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For the Capitals, Game 1 of Stanley Cup playoffs doesn't mark crisis, but is cause for concern

The top-seeded Caps fall to No. 8 Montreal, 3-2, in overtime in the playoff opener.

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By Mike Wise
Friday, April 16, 2010

The night of living dangerously went on for more than three hours -- 12 minutes past 10 p.m., when Tomas Plekanec finally beat José Theodore -- before the Capitals' carelessness finally caught up with them.

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Plekanec is the guy who, through about 42 interpreters, kind of trash-talked Theodore prior to the series, something about, "Our goalie is better than yours."

If I played for the Capitals, I wouldn't worry that Montreal's Jaroslav Halak was just a tad more brilliant than Theodore in net Thursday night in Game 1 of the first-round Stanley Cup playoff series between the supposed indomitable Caps and the allegedly helpless Habs; I'd worry my team was out-shot, out-skated and outplayed in overtime of a siren-sounding loss to start the NHL postseason.

Eighth-seeded Peasants 3, Presidents' Trophy Potentates 2.

"You can't fault José," veteran forward Mike Knuble said. "We didn't execute. We need to play better and harder all the way around. We need to bear down a little more right around the net."

Alex Ovechkin had five of his shots blocked and never found the angles he wanted and needed. Alexander Semin, as enigmatic as ever, woke from his slumber around the third period but couldn't find the net in overtime. Mike Green committed a brain-lock of a penalty at the end of regulation, clearing a puck mistakenly over the glass, that almost cost his team victory a half-hour earlier.

Cause for concern? You bet.

Great regular season teams occasionally run into a hot goalie from time to time in the postseason. But as good as Halak was, he might be the least of Washington's worries the next week or so. After Game 1, the Caps need to learn to get out of their own way if they are going to make short work of Montreal and rest up for the second round.

There were some very good signs, from Theodore being masterful until the end, stopping almost everything Montreal shot at him in the first two minutes of overtime when the Canadiens were on a power play to Jeff Schultz, Mike Green, Boyd Gordon and Shaone Morrisonn finishing off that stellar penalty kill to open overtime.

All of George McPhee's acquisitions during the past year who played in Game 1 -- Knuble, Joe Corvo, Eric Belanger and Jason Chimera -- accounted for a goal and three assists on a night the role players outshone the stars.

But soon after the puck dropped, the unnecessary penalties began. This is beyond huge to anyone who has followed these two teams.

One distinct advantage the Canadiens had coming in was their penalty-killing unit. They don't give up cheap goals when they have fewer players on the ice. The Caps, meanwhile, are 25th in the league at giving up power-play goals.


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