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Over the first two games between the Caps and Canadiens, the two teams combined for three goals - and needed extra time to get even that much. Tonight they more than doubled that output, once again needing extra time in a back-and-forth, up-and-down duel... that was nothing one would have expected.
Here's Thursday night's Plus/Minus:
- Plus: Alex Ovechkin. The man of the hour continues to cut a swath of destruction through opposing goalies - and through the history books - as he follows up his 50th goal of the season on Tuesday with the 473rd of his career. Aka the most goals scored by a Washington Capital in 40 years. No big deal.
- Minus: Lack of firepower. The Caps managed just two shots through the opening twenty minutes (two nights after generating just a single shot, a fairly mundane dump-in on net, in the closing frame against the 'Canes) and finished the evening with 19 total - against a team that routinely gives up over 30 a night.
Ten more notes on the game:
- It's been kind of fun over the past few days to watch the rest of the League - fans and media alike - remember that Alex Ovechkin is an insanely good hockey player, one who should be considered a peer to some of the game's all-time greats. Well, tonight the legend of Ovechkin grew yet again, as he moved into the franchise goal-scoring lead with an absolutely gorgeous wrister on the power play - and then added a 474th career goal, a much grittier tally to (temporarily) give the Caps the lead. He's just...good. Revel in it, enjoy it, appreciate it, because it continues to be an incredible thing to behold.
- Only six teams in the NHL give up more shots per game than the Canadiens, who allow Carey Price to face down an average of 30.6 shots a night - and none of them are in the playoffs. So the fact that the Caps managed just two shots in the opening 20 is more than troubling. That wouldn't cut it against a mediocre goalie; someone like Price? Forget it.
- There have been any number of games this year where one could point to Braden Holtby as one of the main reasons, if not THE reason, for a Caps win. While he made some decent saves tonight, at least two of Montreal's goals probably shouldn't have gone in. Just not his best night (although he certainly got better as the game went on). And frankly if anyone deserves to be allowed a night off every once in a while, it's Holtby.
- The Caps have gotten some nice secondary scoring of late, and have been solid at five-on-five. Tonight? It was all about the power play, as the Caps took advantage of three Montreal minor penalties (and two straight to tie and then take the lead), picking up a trio of extra-man goals for the second time this season.
- Montreal may not have had quite the same level of success on the power play, but they got a timely one, with P.K. Subban firing an absolute laser past Holtby late in the third to knot things up at four and cracking the Caps' penalty kill for the first time in five games.
- Okay, yes. The hip check by P.K. Subban on Alex Ovechkin in the first period was entertaining (although it was a bit more of Ovechkin thinking he could just skate through Subban than it was a planned-out and well-executed hip check). But it was still nothing compared to the one Ovechkin laid on Subban a couple of years ago. Sorry, Pernell Karl.
- If you guessed that at some point tonight, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Joel Ward would get a two-on-one chance, you should probably head to Vegas. If you knew that the goal they scored on said two-on-one would come off of the stick of Ward... nah, you're lying.
- This was a pretty important game for both teams, not just in terms of standings points but as a potential playoff series. If these two teams do end up facing one another, it'll be a pretty entertaining series... and don't discount the importance of the Caps finally getting a couple of goals on Price, who had given up just one goal to them in the two earlier games this season.
- In the first two games of the season series, Holtby and Price put on a goaltending clinic, combining for a grand total of three goals against. Tonight? Four apiece. Welp. Not the goaltending duel we expected...
- ...until the shootout, where the goalies (and the ice and the posts) took over. That is, until Troy Brouwer - TROY BROUWER - won it in Round Four for the Caps. As one would expect.
- It may not have been quite how he drew it up, but that win goes in the books as #600 for Barry Trotz - many congrats on a huge milestone, sir.
It probably wasn't the game we all thought we'd see, and it certainly wasn't the prettiest win for the Caps, but it was a win - which is the most important thing these days. And while the season series comes to a close, there's a chance these two teams meet again very soon.
So keep this one in mind, because the next time they do, it could be a fun one.
And now, this...