Top-seeded Washington Capitals knocked out of Stanley Cup playoffs by eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens

Washington squanders a 3-1 series lead and is left with another historic playoff collapse after a 2-1 loss to the Canadiens in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 29, 2010

Bruce Boudreau stood behind the bench, staring blankly out at the ice. Alex Ovechkin dropped to one knee, his head bowed.

Moments after the Montreal Canadiens had sealed a 2-1 victory in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, not the coach, not his star player, not the capacity crowd on hand at Verizon Center could believe that a season that began amid hopes of a ticker-tape parade down Pennsylvania Avenue had instead ended in ignominy.

The Washington Capitals, who finished the regular season with a franchise-record 54 wins and 121 points, became the ninth No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 8 seed, but the first to blow a three-games-to-one series lead in the process. The collapse also marked the eighth time the Capitals blew a two-game series lead and the fourth time they surrendered a 3-1 edge.

"I told them I felt exactly like they did," Boudreau said. "I thought we had a good chance to win the Stanley Cup this year. I would have bet my house that they wouldn't have beaten us three games in a row and that we wouldn't have scored only three goals [the past three games]."

Fittingly, the loss came to an end with the Capitals on a power play in which they enjoyed a 6-on-4 advantage with goaltender Semyon Varlamov (14 saves) on the bench. But instead of Washington tying the game, Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak (41 stops) clamped down and shut out the Capitals' power play for the third consecutive game. The top-ranked unit entering the playoffs, the Ovechkin-led power play finished an astonishing 1 for 33.

"I have nothing to say right now," said Ovechkin, who, like his teammates, is headed home for a long summer, one that begins with more questions than answers.

The Canadiens, meantime, are set to meet Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the semifinals starting Friday.

"It really hurts," Eric Fehr said. "We thought we had a really good chance to make a good run. It seemed like we had everything going heading into the playoffs . . . but come playoff time, we couldn't get it all going at the same time."

The Capitals' top-ranked offense, which racked up 313 goals in the regular season and 17 in Games 2-4, mustered a measly three -- total -- in the final three games of this series. Alexander Semin and Mike Green, two of the team's leaders on offense, finished with a combined total of five assists and no goals.

Brooks Laich scored his second goal of the series with 2 minutes 16 seconds left, cutting the Capitals' 2-0 deficit and giving them some semblance of hope. That hope, though, was fleeting.

They were unable to squeeze another puck past Halak, who stopped 131 of the 134 shots he faced in the series' final three games. And what shots he didn't stop found the stick blade or shin pad of one of the Montreal players, who blocked an absurd total of 41 shots (to the Capitals' 11).

"They blocked 41 shots, which I've never seen," Boudreau said.

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