Washington Capitals rout Montreal Canadiens in Game 3, 5-1

After two overtime games, Washington pounds the Habs, 5-1, to go up 2-1 in the first-round series.
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 20, 2010

MONTREAL -- After a shaky start to a postseason filled with such high expectations, the Washington Capitals finally resemble the high-octane top seed most predicted would cruise past the Montreal Canadiens with ease.

And they've got two unlikely catalysts to thank for the turnaround.

Boyd Gordon sparked a four-goal second period blitz with a short-handed tally, and rookie goalie Semyon Varlamov, in his 2010 playoff debut, made sure the Capitals held on for a thorough 5-1 victory at Bell Centre and gave Washington a two-games-to-one lead in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals while delivering a blow to the Canadiens' once soaring confidence.

Gordon, a penalty-killing specialist who was healthy scratch on Saturday and didn't find out he was playing until after the morning skate, scored his first career playoff goal (in 23 games) 1 minute 6 seconds into the second period to put the visitors ahead 1-0 -- and perhaps, turn the series' momentum in the Capitals' favor.

"I was thinking pass, but I didn't want to waste a chance or hit a stick and have it go in the corner," Gordon said. "It was pretty big. From there on, we kind of took it to them a little bit."

After Gordon's goal, Brooks Laich and Eric Fehr took turns beating Jaroslav Halak over the next 6:27. Fehr's goal, his second of the series, marked Washington's seventh on 27 shots dating to Game 2 on Halak, who was pulled one day after Alex Ovechkin told reporters Halak looked nervous, noting that he saw the goalie's hand tremble while taking a drink of water after a Capitals tally Saturday night.

Ovechkin welcomed Halak's replacement, Carey Price, to the playoffs about five minutes later. The two-time MVP banged in a centering pass from Nicklas Backstrom, and with the goal, signaled to the rest of the NHL that the regular season's best team was back.

"It feels good to come into a hostile environment like this and play the game we did," said Fehr, who has two goals in the series. "We played pretty simple, nothing fancy and we got the win."

Just as important as the momentum-turning victory was Varlamov's performance (26 saves).

The rookie made his first start of the playoffs one game after replaced José Theodore 7:58 into the first period of Game 2 and almost a year to the day that he took over for Theodore last spring. Varlamov wasn't spectacular in relief duty Saturday, but the Capitals rallied for an overtime victory and that was apparently good enough for General Manager George McPhee and the coaching staff, which, according to Boudreau, made the decision in a meeting Sunday.

Boudreau said several factors were taken into account, including Varlamov's sparkling stats here (he's now 3-0-0 in Montreal with a 1.63 goals against average). Another reason for the switch became apparent during pregame warmups: fans taunted Theodore with a chant of "Tay-oh!"

"That was crazy," Fehr said. "But we were able to quiet them down in the second period, which helped us for sure."

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company