123 ovechkinTroy Brouwer beat Carey Price in the fourth round of the shootout and the Washington Capitals edged the Canadiens 5-4 Thursday night at the Bell Centre.

The Capitals scored three power play goals in the game including two from Alex Ovechkin. Joel Ward also scored twice for Washington, one of those also on a power play. For the Canadiens it was Jeff Petry, Tom Gilbert, Lars Eller and P.K. Subban. Subban’s goal on a third period power play sent the game into overtime. Subban also had two assists. Shots on goal in the game favoured the Canadiens 27-19.

The Molson Cup three stars were Ovechkin, Subban and Capitals defenseman John Carlson who recorded three assists.

Adding It Up –

Should Know Better – Even casual fans were aware that not only did the Washington Capitals have the best power play in the NHL but they also had the league’s top scoring power play forward in Alex Ovechkin. Knowing that, you would think the Canadiens would exercise a little caution. Not this night. Four Canadiens penalties – three Washington power play goals; two of them from Ovechkin. The killer was a neutral zone highsticking penalty taken by Torrey Mitchell in the third period of a game tied 3-3. Carey Price was then charged with putting the puck over the glass and the fallout was the goal that put the Capitals ahead 4-3.

123 gallagherOverview – But for their lack of discipline the Canadiens played a pretty good game. Their first period was as good as you could ask. Price made a save on Brooks Laich at 6:25 of the first period. At that point shots on goal were 2-2. The Capitals didn’t get another shot on goal until 5:03 of the second period, a span of 18:38. But through all of their territorial domination the Canadiens onbly had a 1-0 lead.

Easing Up – The Canadiens game softened for a five minute span in the second period and they paid for it. The Capitals took advantage scoring two goals to take the lead but the Habs seemed to get it back in the latter stages of the second and really had the game by it’s throat, except for those penalties. The last three Capitals goals were on the power play.

123 subbanWithin The Game – P.K. Subban loves a challenge. We see it when he plays Milan Lucic. But comes to another level when he’s in against Alex Ovechkin. Both of them respond to it. With the last change Michel Therrien had Subban out there against Ovechkin at every possible opportunity and it was successful again. Ovechkin still hasn’t scored an even strength point in three games against the Canadiens this season – unfortunately it’s hard to control Ovechkin in a penalty killing situation. . Subban meanwhile had a goal and two assists himself including the goal that tied the game.

Attracting Attention – ……I thought P.A. Parenteau played one of his better games. Sometimes he seems out of the loop. In this game he was very involved. ……Plekanec had a good night playing with Pacioretty and Gallagher. He led the Canadiens with 4 shots and even logged a couple of hits. The line had 11 of the Canadiens 27 shots. ….Maybe a sign of Canadiens involvement in the game was the fact that only four players failed to record a hit. …..I questioned the selection of Jeff Petry as a star in the Tampa game Monday. He was very good in this game and had three scoring chances and a goal,. ….Every night Dale Weise does something that makes you take notice. That pass that set up the Eller goal was just another example of his season-long understated value to the team.

Time To Be Concerned? – The Canadiens now have a record of 6-7-3 since the first of March. That kind of record should have buried the Habs in the Eastern Conference and the Atlantic Division. But they’re not. After picking up the loser’s point against the Capitals, the Canadiens are a point ahead of Tampa in the Atlantic Division with a game in hand and two points behind the Rangers for the Eastern Conference lead. The reason? Almost every team that is assured of a playoff berth has been coasting for most of the last month- playing at or close to .500 hockey. As one Canadiens coach told me after the game, things are not going to be settled until the final games next weekend.

About CareyPrice has carried the Canadiens the entire year. His Vezina/Hart Trophy-calibre play has put a team that was considered at the beginning of the season as a “bubble team” at the top of the Eastern Conference. The pressure on him through his 63 games has been unrelenting. It may because the intensity of his teammates may have sagged somewhat but his performance seems to have taken a dip as well.  Nobody asked me but I think it might be time to give him a week off to freshen him up before the playoffs begin.  Just saying.

Moving On – Five games remaining.  The Canadiens chartered to Newark New Jersey right after the game. They’ll play the Devils Friday night and then move right on down to Florida to meet the Panthers Sunday evening at 5.00. The Canadiens have only one home game remaining, next Thursday against Detroit.