WASHINGTON (AP)—Alex Ovechkin(notes) didn’t have a shot on goal. Not a single one. The NHL’s best scoring machine got upstaged by a player who, in the spirit of the week’s bit of trash-talking, did his best impersonation of Jaromir Jagr(notes).
On a night in which the two-time reigning MVP was neutralized, Tomas Plekanec(notes) was the perfect spoil sport for the Montreal Canadiens, scoring 13:19 into overtime as the Eastern Conference’s No. 8 seed beat the top-seeded Washington Capitals 3-2.
Plekanec basically said that Theodore was no Martin Brodeur(notes) or Ryan Miller(notes), and Theodore shot back that Plekanec wasn’t exactly Jagr. Just to add to the fun, Plekanec’s jersey number on the greaseboard in the Canadiens’ locker room was listed as Jagr’s 68—instead of Plekanec’s 14.
“It was the first day that quote came out … I didn’t like it, but we have had a good laugh about it the next day,” Plekanec said. “I never said anything bad about their goaltending. I said they had really good goalies and they proved it.”
Theodore also laughed off the back-and-forth between the two, as well as the irony that he gave up the deciding goal to the player he needled.
“It was just to set up the mood for the playoffs,” Theodore said. “Tomas is a great player.”
Plekanec silenced the sellout crowd by taking the puck near the red line, skating into the offensive zone and scoring on a drive from high in the slot that beat Theodore to the stick side, making Montreal the latest among several lower-seeded teams to pull a Game 1 upset in the NHL playoffs this week.
Jagr would have been proud.
“There was a couple of jokes thrown at him after the game, I’m not going to lie to you,” said Mike Cammalleri, who scored in the first period for the Canadiens.
But the most amazing development was the blank sheet from Ovechkin, who scored 50 goals in the regular season and took an NHL-high 368 shots.
Ovechkin said Thursday morning he might be “a little bit nervous and a little bit shaky” in his third go-round in the playoffs, and maybe that caused him and his teammates to use up all their energy in the first period—because the Capitals controlled the flow of play early, then appeared to tire as the game wore on.
“He didn’t play good,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. “They gapped up real well on him, but I don’t think Alex played very well. … Our best players weren’t our best players tonight, and their best players were.”
It didn’t help that Ovechkin was shadowed most everywhere he went by defenseman Jaroslav Spacek(notes), or that he had five shot attempts blocked. The Capitals played at their preferred up-and-down pace for a little more than a period—and the Canadians controlled the rest of the game.
“Right now I’m mad, and right now we’re disappointed, but tomorrow’s a new day,” said Ovechkin, who was held without a shot only once in the regular season. “They just don’t give us the room. They put two guys in front of me … We’re going to watch the game and make some changes.”
Game 2 is Saturday night in Washington.
The Capitals had their best season in franchise history and won the Presidents’ Trophy for the first time, while the Canadiens didn’t secure a playoff berth until the next-to-last day. Washington had 313 goals, the most by a team since 1995-96. It also led the NHL with 213 5-on-5 goals, while Montreal was last with 132.
Sure enough, the Capitals were outshooting the Canadiens 7-0 after 6 minutes, and Ovechkin was throwing himself about the ice.
But the Canadiens’ power play was solid—ranking second only behind the Capitals’—and it paid off after Nicklas Backstrom(notes) took an unwise retaliation penalty for cross-checking Spacek midway through the first period.
The flow of play was more to the Canadiens’ liking in the second, but the visitors couldn’t capitalize. Backstrom, who spent much of the last few days in bed with an illness, gave the Capitals the lead 47 seconds into the third period, but Montreal tied it again when Scott Gomez(notes) got behind defenseman Mike Green(notes) to tap in Brian Gionta’s(notes) pass with about 12 1/2 minutes left in regulation.
“In the second period they pushed pretty hard, and I think we let them in the game a little bit,” Backstrom said. “And that’s something we can’t do.”
NOTES: Perhaps the Canadiens drew inspiration from Wednesday’s results, when three of four games were won by lower-seeded teams—and the fourth was widely considered an upset, too. “It’s been talked about. I don’t think it is anything new to anybody, but it reaffirms to you that anything can happen,” Cammalleri said after the morning’s skate. Unfortunately, Cammalleri couldn’t watch those Wednesday games because he couldn’t get them on the TV in his hotel room. “Happened to me last year, too,” he said. … The Capitals sold out every game this season for the first time, and 18,000 red-clad, towel-waving fans got going from the moment that the Stanley Cup was shown on the video screen before the game, accompanied by the words “Nothing Else Matters.”