Coming from 3-2 consecutive wins over the Kings and Blue Jackets respectively, the Montreal Canadiens traveled to Washington on Friday to face NHL's top capitals in their biggest test of the youth season. After two games played against the basement residents, it was imperative that they do their best against the cream of the crop at any conference until the time this article was written.
This easily marked the most difficult ride the Habs had at this time of year, and they would be expected to accept it. They absolutely were.
The first period was incredibly fast and in the first 10 minutes there were a total of maybe three stops. Washington had the best early chances, but Carey Price clearly showed up. In the second half of the period, the Habs began to generate some chances, but young rookie Ilya Samsonov was a worthy opponent in itself.
The late Habs equalizer really came in total throws as Samsonov was the much busiest goalkeeper, with 15 defenders in the first period, against eight from Price. All of this resulted in a very fun but scoreless game coming in at halftime.
The start of the second period was pretty much the same, with goalkeepers taking center stage amid quick action. As can happen in fast-paced games, there was a frightening moment when Alexander Ovechkin rose to deal a cruel blow to Jonathan Drouin. Inexplicably, the officials decided to go unpunished, much to Habs bank's chagrin.
But the Canadians took revenge on the scoreboard. Tomas Tatar found Phillip Danault alone in front of Samsonov, and Samsonov showed some slippery hands before finishing high with the backhand. 1-0 to the visitors and they seemed to be gaining momentum.
And they didn't take long to increase leadership. After another chance from Danault, the disc hit the blue line, where Ben Chiarot met Shea Weber for an absolute one-hour laser beam. 2-0 for the good guys.
But wait … there's more! Jordan Weal, returning to the team, made a good spin on Washington's defense before sending a sneaky backhander to make it 3-0 for Tricolore.
If you didn't have fun at this point, well, they haven't been made yet. The Habs would receive the first powerful game, but could not find the net. However, seconds after the penalty kick expired, Nick Suzuki managed to put him on a defender's bar while looking for Brendan Gallagher in front. 4-0 for a Habs team who actually called after Drouin's injury.
Fortunately for the fans, the attack stopped there, but the Canadians took the game in the second and brought a well-deserved four-goal lead in the locker room where Drouin was fine.
Which turned out to be the case as the Habs welcomed the points leader to start the second. And as if dissatisfied with a four-goal advantage, they went back to work pressing their caps, getting a good chance of starting the final frame.
But the only thing you cannot do against capitals is to apply sanctions. An interference call from Jeff Petry gave Washington's extremely potent power an opportunity, and Ovechkin predictably found the network with a single timer. The result was 4-1, but there wasn't much time to work on the home team.
Of course, with less than five minutes left to play, Evgeny Kuznetsov was sent alone in a loophole and, as good as Carey Price was, he could do nothing to stop the other Russian striker from 4-2.
Caps almost immediately pulled Samsonov to get the extra skater with more than three minutes to play. There was some danger in the early minutes, but after a forced offside clash outside the Habs blue line, Tomas Tatar found the net empty to make the 5-2.
And that is what she wrote. With the victory, the Habs became the first Eastern Conference team to defeat the capitals this season, and they did so in style with absolute dominance. Back in action tomorrow against the humble Devils, and you'll have to feel good about tonight after what they did on Friday.
- It really was a dominant effort. Even with strength, they achieved 58.62% Corsi-For, 56.86% chances of goals, 58.82% chances of high danger and an expected goal of 59.77%. Few can say that they expected a good performance against the best team of the championship at the moment. It was a great effort.
- Alexander Ovechkin's blow was absolutely gross. But I'll stop there, as I plan to publish an article about it later for all interested parties. I'll say it was great to see Drouin back there on the third.
- One night when he wasn't so busy, Carey Price managed to look great again. Particularly in the first period when Washington went flying, he made a series of quality defenses that set the tone and let his team set foot under them. After they did, they made a very quiet night for him until the third period.
- I mentioned in the article that Drouin was the points leader of the team. He is no longer, as Tomas Tatar passed him with four points in the night. Nick Suzuki has also found the scoresheet and is improving, so Max Pacioretty's trade is really paying dividends this season.
- Special mention to Phillip Danault to close this recap. Three points in the night, and he's at the pace of a career year. You heard it here first, guys … Drake predicts he'll win Selke.