Halak drops another gem as Habs stun Caps
For the first time in NHL history, the 8th seed in the playoffs was able to come back from a 3-1 series deficit to knock off the top seed. The Washington Capitals sure weren’t trying to make that kind of history when they began these playoffs, but three straight gems from Jaroslav Halak saved the Montreal Canadiens from an early playoff exit that just about everyone expected.
Two days after making 53 saves in Montreal, Halak turned in another great performance at the Verizon Center in Washington tonight, allowing just one goal on 42 Washington shots. The Capitals dominated play throughout the entire game, allowing Montreal just 16 shots of their own. They were especially dominant in the 2nd and 3rd periods, when Montreal recorded just 3 and 5 shots in the two periods. >
Strong play in their own end and a patient approach to the game were the keys to the game for Montreal, as they blocked over 30 additional shot attempts by the Caps, and took full advantage of the few opportunities they were given. Marc-Andre Bergeron scored the first goal of the game on a 4-on-3 powerplay with just 30 seconds left in the first period. The game remained 1-0 until Dominic Moore scored what looked like an offensive cushion for Halak but turned out to be the game winner. Travis Moen outhustled Mike Green to a loose puck in the Washington zone and chipped it over to Moore, who put a quick wrister in off the post behind Semyon Varlamov.
Brooks Laich made things interesting in the final minutes with his diving backhand flip shot over Halak in the crease with just over two minutes remaining, and a late penalty to Ryan O’Byrne gave the Capitals a great chance to even the score. Yet even with Varlamov on the bench and a 6-on-4 advantage in manpower, the Capitals failed again on the powerplay, giving them just one powerplay goal on 33 opportunities in the series.
The road won’t get any easier for the Habs, as they’ll face the 4th seeded defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2nd round. However, with their performance against the offensively stacked Capitals, they’ll probably try to replicate their shutdown defense against the Pens. Getting effort like they got from Halak in Games 5,6 and 7 would also be immensely helpful. Halak stopped 131 of 134 shots he faced in those games and is, without a doubt, the main reason his team was able to advance.
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