Jaroslav Halak made 53 saves in an incredible demonstration of goaltending brilliance on Monday night to give the Montreal Canadiens a chance to upset the Washington Capitals in Game 7 on Wednesday. Halak played 55:10 of shutout hockey in front of a sell-out crowd at the Bell Centre, and frustrated Washington all night as he kept the 8th seeded Habs’ playoff chances alive for at least two more days.
Mike Cammalleri scored a pair of goals in less than 2 minutes during the first period to give the Canadiens all the offense they’d need with Halak’s great goaltending. He sniped the first goal over Semyon Varlamov’s blocker from the left faceoff dot and slapped home a one timer to put Montreal up 2-0 midway through the first. >
Halak stole the show the rest of the night, robbing Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals over and over again. The Capitals outshot the Habs 14-3 in the 2nd, and dominated the game all night, finishing with 32 more shots than the Canadiens, but Halak was just too good. He shut down the Caps on all six of their powerplays, and robbed Ovie on a breakaway in the 2nd that left the Washington captain shaking his head in disbelief.
In the 3rd, Max Lapierre stretched Montreal’s lead to 3-0 with a booming slap shot that found a tiny opening over Varlamov’s left shoulder and erased any doubt about whether or not Montreal would actually be able to force the Eastern Conference’s top seed into a decisive Game 7. Eric Fehr spoiled Halak’s shutout with a beautiful tip in of a shot-pass from Mike Green, but Tomas Plekanec’s empty net goal in the last minute put Montreal back up by 3 and took away any late thoughts of a comeback the Caps might have let themselves latch on to.
If the Habs’ netminder can replicate his Game 6 performance on Wednesday, the Caps could be in some serious trouble, and the fact that Montreal’s win at home was just the 2nd time in the series that either team has won at home can’t be letting Bruce Boudreau sleep too well. Ovie and the boys will have to find a way to solve the Slovak keeper or their dreams of Stanley Cup glory will be over much earlier than anyone in DC will have hoped.