Canadiens fans booed the U.S. national anthem before the game tonight, but it was the team from the capital of Canada's southern neighbor who got the last laugh tonight.
The Washington Capitals went into Bell Center to play a Montreal team that has been in playoff games since 1918 -- a team with as much tradition as any in hockey. It didn't matter at all to the Caps, as they used a 4-goal 2nd period to thoroughly thrash the Habs 5-1 and take a 2-1 lead in this first round playoff series.
The Caps got a complete offensive performance, with goals from Boyd Gordon, Brooks Laich, Eric Fehr, Alex Ovechkin, and Matt Bradley, with Gordon's short-handed goal coming first. After a scoreless first period, Gordon, Laich and Fehr each scored in less than 7.5 minutes and sent Habs goalie Jaroslav Halak to the bench with his head down. [Looks like Ovechkin's comment about Halak's nerves was on the mark, though Montreal fans responded to the gibe by booing every time Ovie touched the puck.] The Caps' never stopped attacking, with Bradley's goal coming with 44 seconds left in the game.
But Washington's great offense was only part of the story. The defense was greatly improved and Washington passed the puck well out of their zone and deep into Montreal's zone. The Caps were able to get through the neutral zone with almost no turnovers and the chipping near Montreal's goal was superb.
Credit must go to Head Coach Bruce Boudreau, who changed up his lines [Belanger up, Morrissonn down] and inserted goalie Semyon Varlamov into the starting lineup. That last move paid off hugely, as Varlamov was virtually perfect, saving 26 shots on goal and really holding the fort during the first period when Montreal attacked ferociously, but was repeatedly turned away by exceptional saves.