We were shown two glaring examples of that in the Canadiens 4-3 win over the Capitals in Washington Wednesday night..
First the Capitals, aware that the Canadiens had won only 9 of their last 34 games, played like they felt they could take the night off and still win. By the time they woke up, their two goals late in the third period became “too little, too late.”
On the flip side, Mike Condon has been pretty much thrown to the wolves and whatever confidence the rookie might have possessed in the first two months of the season took a serious beating over the his last 25 appearances. But Condon seems to be coming out of it. Part of his night was an unreal behind-the-back save on Mike Richards late in the second period. (You can see the video below) He wasn’t perfect of course. He blew the angle on the Capitals second goal, but it still took a perfect shot to beat him. Condon battled right down to that final save on Nicklas Backstrom with just under three seconds left and the Washington net empty. In his last three games, Condon has stopped 97 of 103 shots for a .942 save percentage and the Canadiens are 2-0-1.
It wasn’t only Condon of course. The Canadiens entered the game with seven regulars on their injury list including defensemen Jeff Petry, Nathan Beaulieu and Tom Gilbert. They got major contributions from Greg Pateryn plus minor league callups Mark Barberio and Victor Bartley. Pateryn had a really good night, logging 21:38 and was a factor on Canadiens penalty killing. Bartley and Barberio were both plus-2.
Another positive sign, the Canadiens had traffic in front of the Washington net in all four of their goals. Alex Galchenyuk continued to be February’s best forward with two more goals and with each game chances of his return to centre grow dimmer. He finished with five shots on goal and five scoring chances.
Lars Eller, Galchenyuk’s centre, took four shots which, with the trade deadline looming, was well noted by the NHL scouts in attendance, especially the two from the Chicago Blackhawks. .
Brendan Gallagher was a ball of fire as usual. The rest of the forwards did their collective job on the defensive side of the puck. They were especially effective in the neutral zone.
It was one of those rare four goal nights for the Canadiens but the Capitals gave the Canadiens a dozen odd-man rushes in the game. They capitalized on none of them which says something about the Canadiens desperate lack of firepower. Given twelve odd-man rushes, how many goals do you think the Capitals might have scored?
And so, another day closer to Monday’s trade deadline. One game left before then; against Toronto Saturday night at the Bell Centre and then the tea and especially Dale Weise, Tomas Fleischmann and maybe even Lars Eller will be sitting in their San Jose hotel rooms Monday waiting for the shoe to drop.
Condon’s Behind-The-Back Save on Mike Richards