MONTREAL (AP)—Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals gave their fans reason to “Rock the Red” after salvaging a split at home to open their first Stanley Cup playoff matchup against Montreal.
Now they’re eager to put a dent in the “bleu, blanc et rouge” enthusiasm of the Canadiens’ passionate and demanding fans.
Powered by Ovechkin’s four-point effort and Nicklas Backstrom’s(notes) overtime winner to complete a hat trick, the top-seeded Capitals avoided falling into an 0-2 series hole with a 6-5 comeback victory in Game 2 on Saturday night.
Ovechkin thinks Washington has a great opportunity to ride its momentum as the series shifts to Bell Centre for the Capitals’ Montreal playoff debut Monday night.
“It’s the first time I’m playing against a Canadian team,” Ovechkin said after practice Sunday in Arlington, Va. “Canada is crazy about hockey. The atmosphere is going to be unbelievable and the pressure is going to be on them, not on us.”
That pressure shifted several times throughout Game 2. Washington first overcame a 4-1 deficit to tie it on Backstrom’s second goal of the game midway through the third. After falling behind once again, the Capitals evened it at 5 on rookie defenseman John Carlson’s(notes) first playoff goal with 1:21 left in regulation.
“If I’m Montreal, I’m angry because I could have won two games,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. “They’re thinking they’re the better team. We’re trying as hard as we can, believe me. They’re playing really good.”
The Canadiens’ penalty killing has excelled in the first two games. Washington, the NHL’s top-ranked power play, has failed to score in seven opportunities.
In the wake of the split, Boudreau was able to concentrate on the silver lining in evaluating the Capitals’ inability to convert with the man advantage— so far.
“Even though we didn’t score and our entries weren’t what we wanted, I thought we had some great looks and we just missed chances,” Boudreau said. “So it’s not as if I’m dismally disappointed in our power play because they’re working at it and they’re trying to get stuff done and they’re having the modicum of success, meaning that they’re getting a couple of chances during the power play. It’s not like Montreal’s got it in our zone the whole time.”
Held without a goal, an assist, or a shot on goal for the first time in his NHL career Thursday night in the Capitals’ series-opening 3-2 overtime loss, Ovechkin had a goal and three assists after Eric Fehr(notes) scored Washington’s first goal midway through the opening period.
Boudreau had not yet made a decision on who would start Game 3 before the Capitals flew to Montreal on Sunday.
After making 45 saves in Game 1, Halak was beaten six times on 37 shots Saturday.
“You just have to make some traffic in front of him and find the rebounds,” Ovechkin said. “He gave up lots of rebounds. I watched the replay when (Fehr) scored the goal and his arm was shaking when he was drinking water so he’s nervous. He knows all the pressure is on him and that’s a good sign for us.”