Thu Apr 15 11:10pm EDT
WASHINGTON, DC -- After scoring the game-winning goal at 13:19 of overtime to upset the NHL's best regular-season team the Washington Capitals, 3-2, Tomas Plekanec(notes) knew the jokes were going to fly.
Like his Montreal Canadiens teammates calling him "Jagr" as they celebrated, in reference to the verbal sparring leading up to Game 1 between Plekanec and the goalie that he had just beaten in OT.
Earlier this week, Plekanec gave a critical assessment of the Capitals' goaltending tandem of Jose Theodore(notes) and Semyon Varlamov(notes) to the French-language publication La Presse, saying (via DC Sports Bog):
"It's not as though we were up against Brodeur or Miller. They don't have a dominant goalie. And when you look at the season, you realize that this matchup of goalies is useful for our team. I think you could say that our goalies have been better than theirs."
Capitals beat writer Corey Masisak of CSN Washington asked Theodore for his reaction, and the former Canadiens goalie responded by intentionally confusing Plekanec with a much more celebrated Czech countryman, Jaromir Jagr(notes):
"Tomas who? Jagr? Oh, Plekanec. OK. I thought you meant Jagr....No, I'm not [Miller or Brodeur]. They are two of the best goalies in the league....I'm just lucky to be part of a good team."
In Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal, Plekanec had the last laugh -- although he claimed it wasn't a motivating factor for his performance.
"As soon as the puck was dropped, I didn't think about it. I just wanted to win the game," he said after the game.
"Obviously the first day that quote came up in the newspapers, I didn't like it. But we laughed about it the next day with the guys. He had a good quote, too."
The jokes carried over to the pregame at Verizon Center. "I had a '68' [Jagr's number] on the boards for the lineup [tonight]," he said.
The game-winner from Plekanec:
When asked if the OT game-winner validated his remarks, Plekanec said: "Again, I never said anything bad about their goaltending. I said they have very good goalies, and they proved it - Theo was great tonight. I said it many times: He's a good goalie, I played with him, he won the [Vezina] trophy and I would never say anything disrespectful to him. If they took it that way, that's what happened."
With the Capitals and Alex Ovechkin(notes) -- who didn't record a shot on goal against Jaroslav Halak(notes) (45 saves) -- regrouping after the opening-game upset, the Habs grew more confident as the game continued before Plekanec ended it with a shot from the high slot.
The Habs center expects the momentum to carry over to Game 2 on Saturday ... as well as the Jagr jokes.
"I heard it a couple times already," he said. "It's probably going to be there tomorrow, too."