Sat Apr 17 11:45pm EDT
Nicklas Backstrom's(notes) hat trick and an assist, including the game-winner 31 seconds into OT, and Alex Ovechkin's(notes) 4-point night are going to earn the headlines because the Capitals' stars showed up in a must-win game.
But rookie defenseman Carlson's third-period goal, on a Backstrom feed, gave Washington the opportunity to play an extra period. On a delayed call, Carlson just flat out beat Jaroslav Halak(notes) for his first playoff goal. (Watch the goal here.)
"We let them penetrate the zone on an even-man rush. The tying goal was going to be a penalty called, and it froze our players. We just gave them the blue line," said Canadiens Coach Jacques Martin.
Here's Carlson after the game, on his goal and the way he's scored opportunistic, critical goals in his short career (like in world juniors).
Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau had high praise for Carlson, acknowledging that he's been perhaps the Capitals' best defenseman in the playoffs and Carlson's knack for heroics: "Glory follow him. Some guys get that. They come up in the ninth inning with the bases loaded, and they're the ones who do the damage. John Carlson, in his career, is going to be like that."
As for the other critical moment ...
A.K.A. what the hell was Scott Gomez thinking?
Here's the situation: It's 3:30 of the third period, and the Canadiens have a 1-goal lead after Ovechkin tucked the puck from underneath Halak to make it 4-3 for the Habs. And then this went down:
At first, it seemed like a genius move by Poti: Goad Gomez into a fight, taking off the Canadiens' No. 1 center (who already had 1 assist on the night) for five critical minutes in the third period of a road game for the Habs.
Only it was Gomez who instigated the fight, according to Poti.
"I was out on the ice for a while. There was a little scrum in front of the net - me and Greener and some of the other guys knocked the goalie over. Gomez pushed Ovie, I pushed him back at the end. He kind of jumped me a little bit and he said 'Let's go,'" said Poti.
In the five minutes after Gomez took himself off the ice, the Canadiens had perhaps their worst power play of the series after an Alex Semin tripping penalty. The fight took an essential two-way player away from Montreal at even-strength, shifted the momentum in the game and sparked a Capitals surge that led to a tying goal from Nicklas Backstrom just over a minute after Poti and Gomez left the box.
What could have been a knockout blow from Montreal early in the third was squandered.
"I think the players rallied around him," said Boudreau of Poti.
"The players all patted him on the back. It told us something about how much he wanted to win," he said. "Even though our power play is struggling beyond struggling, it gave us a lift.
As for Poti, who had his third career fight on Saturday night: "Maybe after the fight, we turned it around a little bit. Everyone started to kick it into that extra gear. That's what you have to do in playoffs sometimes: Do what you wouldn't normally do in the regular season."
It was also, to my knowledge, the first time an NHL crowd has chanted Poti's name in a positive manner.