MONTREAL – The Washington Capitals have piled up 13 goals on the Montreal Canadiens in three playoff games, so imagine what the NHL’s most potent attack may do if they start scoring on the power play?
The Capitals were held to 0-for-7 in their 5-1 victory in Game 3 of the best-of-seven NHL Eastern Conference series to leave them 0-for-14 for the series. Including the end of the regular season, they have gone 21 power plays without a goal dating to Alex Ovechkin’s tally against Pittsburgh on April 6.
Their latest exercise in frustration moved coach Bruce Boudreau to state the team’s power play “sucks.”
He got no argument from Ovechkin.
“We didn’t move, we didn’t do our job and Bruce is right, we’re terrible on the power play,” the Capitals star scorer said Tuesday.
Washington leads the series 2-1 going into Game 4 on Wednesday night.
The Capitals devoted part of their practice at the Bell Centre to the man advantage, but it consisted of passing the puck around and taking shots with no penalty killers trying to stop them.
Boudreau said he didn’t want to show anything specific they were working on, and wound it up quickly when he was made aware that Canadiens coach Jacques Martin was up in the stands.
“It was just getting people into position,” he said. “We haven’t really practised since the playoffs started.”
Boudreau started tinkering during Game 3, moving Ovechkin off the left point and playing him halfway down on left side, and replacing Alexander Semin with point man Joe Corvo. It produced some shots, but the goals didn’t come. On Tuesday, they were back to the regular five on the top unit ? Ovechkin, Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Knuble and Mike Green.
“What we’ve got on our team is skills,” added Ovechkin. “We have to score on our power play 50 per cent I think, or maybe less.”
In the regular season, Washington led the NHL with a 25.2 per cent success rate. Montreal was second at 21.8 per cent and has had a power play goal in each game of the series thus far.
“If the power play gets going, it’s going to be better for us,” said Ovechkin. “I hope when we need it, it’s going to be working.
“Last game we had power play opportunities for six minutes, eight minutes and we didn’t score. Maybe we need to relax or something.”
Backstrom said it is only a matter of time.
“It’s going to come soon, and hopefully it will be there for the rest of the series,” said the gifted centre.
Montreal has based much of its penalty killing efforts on shutting down Ovechkin, the Caps’ 50-goal scorer, but Backstrom said that still leaves a 4-on-3 advantage on the rest of the ice that should produce goals. Montreal has kept most of Washington’s shooters to the outside however, with few chances from in close.
“They’re afraid of (Ovechkin) shooting pucks, but we have other guys who can shoot,” said Backstrom, himself a 40-goal scorer. “Their penalty killing is better in the playoffs than in the regular season.
“First of all, taking Ovi away when he’s going down low. And they’re doing a good job of blocking shots and attacking the points and me on the half wall.”
Even without power play goals, the Capitals have rebounded nicely after dropping the opener 3-2 in overtime at home. They followed with a comeback 6-5 OT win at home in which they erased a 4-1 deficit. Then they swamped the Canadiens with four second period goals in Game 3.
“The first game shook us a lot,” said Ovechkin. “We lost in overtime in front of our fans and we felt embarrassed.
“We just want to improve. In the second game we were just flying out there.”
It was in Game 2 that Boudreau pulled Jose Theodore, who he had designated as his starting goaltender for the playoffs, in favour of Semyon Varlamov, who has been solid thus far. Varlamov was key in Game 3, not allowing a goal as Montreal controlled the first period. He was finally beaten in the third period by Tomas Plekanec, but made 26 saves for the win.
“When your goalie stands on his head like that, it settles everyone down and gives you more confidence,” Green said. “I really thought Varly took the crowd out of it when he made those saves. They didn’t have much momentum after that.”
The Caps practice was optional and defencemen Corvo and Shaone Morrisonn didn’t skate, although Boudreau said both should be OK to play on Wednesday. Morrisonn did not finish Game 3 due to an undisclosed ailment.
While Theodore was talking to the media, Ovechkin leaned in and asked “is your arm shaking?”
This was a joke about Ovechkin’s having said that Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak’s arm was shaking after giving up a goal in Game 2.