Capitals vs Canadiens 2010: Backstrom Saves The Day

The year is 2010. The opponent is the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. We all know how this ends up for the Washington Capitals, so we don’t even have to or want to discuss that any further.

However, there can be plenty of good things that come from bad times. This is one of those things. This is one of my favorites Washington Capitals games and I love going back and watching highlights from this game.

So, for new Capitals fans, or newer than 2010 or 2011, here is the situation we find ourselves in. The Capitals are clearly the “best” team in the NHL for the 2009-10 season. The Capitals were 54-15-13 and had 121 points. The next highest in the eastern conference was the New Jersey Devils with 103 points. That’s how big the distance was. The San Jose Sharks had 113 points out west to be the closest team overall.

Washington obviously had huge expectations for the playoffs and rightly so. They didn’t start the playoffs very well though, they dropped the first game of the series, on home ice in overtime to go down in the series 0-1.

That’s where we will pick it up today.

One minute into the game, it’s the first line’s first shift of the game and Ovechkin is hitting everything in sight. However, Montreal strikes first and early to put even more pressure on the Presidents’ Trophy winners.

The first line, by the way, has Ovechkin with Backstrom and Mike Knuble. The goal was scored by Brian Gionta on the rush on a one-timer from a not so great position. He was basically above the right faceoff circle near the boards. But, he got it to go in past Jose Theodore. Caps are in a hole early.

After that, the Capitals play pretty well I’d say. They get plenty of zone time, get some shots and get a couple of good chances. If they hadn’t allowed a goal I would say this is an excellent start.

The problem is they are now not only down 1-0, they’re down 2-0. The Capitals look to have possession of the puck at the attacking blue line but Montreal gets it and come down with speed on a 3 on 2. The Capitals defense of Mike Green and Jeff Schultz back in too much and give Andrei Kostitsyn way too much room. He skates into the slot and rips a wrister past Theodore’s glove.

At this point of the game Montreal has two shots on goal…and yes, they have two goals. That is less than great. Washington has eight shots on goal.

That is the last of Jose Theodore in this one, he gets replaced by Semyon Varlamov. Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau obviously trying to wake his team up, at least defensively.

The Capitals look a little shocked after that goal. Montreal starts to get more puck possession, that being said nothing is coming from said possession. Washington’s is not playing with the same speed as before, their passes aren’t clicking at the moment and Montreal just looks faster at the moment.

The Capitals third line of Fehr, Flieschmann and Steckel change that however. A bad pass by Montreal defenseman Markov gives the puck to Fleiscmann who hits Fehr for a 100 foot breakaway and he cashes in. Nothing flashy, just a simple shot from the hashes beats Jaroslav Halak blocker side.

If you ever need the definition of a huge goal, that’s it.

The first period comes to a close without too many chances for either side after the Fehr goal. I’d give the edge to the Capitals though. They had more chances or “half chances” as I would call them.

The man doing color commentary on this game is Billy Jaffe. He makes a good point about the Capitals skill game towards the end of the period. He mentions how the skill game just isn’t going at this point and that is leading to not very much zone time. The third and fourth lines are trying to get cycles going to create some zone time and momentum. They’re not having too much luck right now either though.

Onto the second period.

Just about forty seconds into the period the first power play of the game is awarded to Montreal. Eric Belanger goes to the box for tripping. It’s a good kill for the Capitals though, not a lot of chances, if any. Varlamov has to make just one good save, but it’s in the breadbasket, so not too much to worry from him.

3:30 into the period Ovechkin gets his best chance of the entire series. On a play that looked offside Ovechkin comes down the right side after a puck went off a Habs defender. Ovechkin tries to go 5-hole but Halak stops it.

Montreal has started to get some chances now at about the halfway point of the period. One after Alex Semin gets stripped behind his own goal and Varlamov has to make a very good save. The next from Plekanec who circles around the goal and fires one off the crossbar.

We’re now at 9 minutes left in the second period. The Capitals don’t have a lot of chances in this period, the Canadiens are clearly the better team right now. To make matters worse, they just scored.

The Caps looked like they had a chance to get the puck out but they don’t. It ends up with Cammalleri behind the net, he just backhands a puck to the net front where Kostitsyn slams it home. It’s now 3-1 Montreal.

With about 4:45 left in the period the Capitals fans in attendance start to boo their team. The Capitals aren’t hardly getting shots now, Montreal is blocking everything and it’s even harder to get shots considering they’re having trouble even getting into the offensive zone.

Brooks Laich gets called for tripping about 45 seconds later. Montreal will have a chance to extend this lead via the power play. They do in fact extend that lead with 25 seconds left on the man advantage.

Crazy play and pretty unfortunate. The Jaroslav Spacek point shot gets deflected by Schultz and then goes off the hip or back of Mike Green who is battling right in front of the net and the puck bounces past Varlamov. That is a “when it rains, it pours” situation. It’s 4-1, the Capitals are down 0-1 in the series and this season is falling apart fast.

The play gets reviewed and there is a pretty big delay for some reason. It’s obviously a good goal but this is kind of acting like a timeout for the Capitals.

About twenty or thirty seconds after the long review Backstrom gathers a puck on the side boards, takes to or three steps forward and slightly in and blasts a slap shot that beats Halak. There is plenty of traffic in front of the net and Halak even argues goaltender interference. If it was today that play probably gets reviewed. Still a goal I would think though. Definitely a goal back then though and it’s 4-2 and the Caps have life.

With about forty seconds left the Capitals have another great chance. Tom Poti gets a great feed from behind the net from Backstrom but he can’t put it home. A huge scramble ensues and you’re just watching the back of the net hoping it squeaks in. It never does and play is stopped thank to a hand pass. The crowd can feel it though. Amazing how one goal can get momentum back.

Ten or fifteen seconds later Cammalleri takes a penalty and the Caps get their first power play chance. The period ends twenty seconds later.

That period was mostly Montreal, but the Capitals came on strong to end the period. This one feels like it’s far from over.

Sam Rosen, who is the play by play guy for this Versus broadcast, tells us that the Capitals had eight come from behind victories when trailing going into the third this season. In hindsight that’s called foreshadowing. A graphic later comes on the screen telling the viewers the Capitals had nine wins this season when trailing by 2+ goals. The most in the NHL that year.

The power play Washington got at the end of the second period doesn’t generate much. They got a bit of a net front scramble at the very end of it, but that’s about it. Still 4-2 Canadiens.

Just about 3 minutes into the third Ovechkin makes his presence known. Carlson fakes a shot to get the blocker out of the way then lets one go and Ovechkin bangs in a rebound. 4-3 Montreal.

In a game that looked all but lost, in the span of 5 or so minutes of play, this is a game.

While the goal is still being announced the Canadiens have a good chance but players go crashing into the net and play is stopped. Afterwards, Gionta runs into Ovechkin before being pulled away by a linesman. Scott Gomez then does the same. Almost everybody on the ice comes together but not much going on. Then as most are skating away Tom Poti and Gomez fight. Gomez gets his jersey pulled over his head and Poti gets a few small hits in. They fall and get escorted to the box.

Semin takes a penalty four minutes into the third. It is not a good penalty at all. It’s a tripping penalty away from the play, 200 feet away from his own net. An awful penalty considering the situation. The commentators then talk about how skilled Semin is but mention how off and on he can be.

The Capitals bail out their teammate, no PPG against, hardly a chance. At the end of the power play Rosen and Jaffe drool over the 20-year-old John Carlson. Jaffe talks about how in two or three years he’ll be the Capitals best all-around defenseman.

Nearly halfway through the period the Capitals tie it up thanks to Ovechkin and Backstrom teaming up. Backstrom gets the puck to Ovechkin at the defensive blue line, he goes up the right side and tries a shot that gets blocked. It stays with him though and he finds Backstrom going to the front of the net and Backstrom directs it in.

They have scored three goals in about 12 minutes of play to tie the game. It’s the stars that have brought this team back too, Ovechkin with one goal, Backstrom with two. They’re playoff style goals as well. Get pucks and bodies to the net and good things will happen. Good things are happening now.

Semin now does some good work. He’s skating hard, moving his feet and draws an interference call on Hal Gill. Caps to the power play with a chance to take the lead.

The Capitals didn’t get much chances on the power play however, the best chance was from Semin and that came shortly after the power play expired.

Just about 5 minutes left in the game now. Kostitsyn gets the puck past the aggressive Caps checking and the puck goes to Green who tries to knock the puck out of the zone. He fails to get it out and it’s a 2 on 1 now and Montreal scores. The Schultz and Green pair are on for a lot of goals against this game.

It’s now 5-4 Canadiens with 5:06 to play.

The replay doesn’t look good for Green. He doesn’t take the man or the stick away and it’s a pretty easy tap in for Plekanec. The Capitals need to get back to work.

Benoit Pouliot takes a bad penalty by tripping Carlson a long ways away from his own net. Caps get a power play with just less than five minutes left.

Not a great power play, there were no chances and it basically wasted two minutes of time. There is now about 2:30 left to play, Capitals down by one.

The play starts with 1:30 left. Carlson gives the puck to Ovechkin in the faceoff circle to Varlamov’s left. He gets slashed and there is a penalty called but it’s delayed. Backstrom takes the puck and skates up the middle of the ice until he enters the zone. Then he drops a pass to his left to Carlson. He skates a bit to his right and lets a wrister fly from the top of the circles and beats Halak glove side.

5-5, 1:21 left in the third period.

Jaffe mentions how Carlson was playing in the World Junior Championships just a couple of months ago. He got the gold medal winning goal then and now he’s scoring huge tying goals in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The third period ends without much else to mention. We go to overtime in a game that looked lost for Washington…twice.

Sam Rosen tells us that the Capitals are 1-5 in overtime under Boudreau as play gets underway. The last time the Capitals won a game in overtime in the playoffs was in 1998. While he tells us they have lost 6 overtime games in a row on home ice, Poti gives a pass to Knuble who hands it to Backstrom at center ice. He skates into the zone and shoots one from the top of the circles and beats Halak high glove side and wins it for Washington.

For whatever reason, this is one of my favorite goal calls ever. Maybe because he was saying how poor the Capitals OT results have been and nearly before he can get all of his facts out Backstrom wins it. It’s a hat trick as well so that makes it even more special.

Just 31 seconds into overtime and it’s over. The Capitals win a game in which they probably shouldn’t have. When you’re in the playoffs you can’t lose a game in which you’re up 4-1. Well, Montreal did.

In doing so, they became the victims in one of my favorite Capitals wins and one of my favorite Capitals games in general.

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This is the Capitals team that made me a Capitals fan, even a big time hockey fan. I’ll always call myself a sucker from the 2010 Olympics. I loved watching that tournament. I followed Ovechkin after the tournament and have been a big hockey fan since. This team, the 2009-10 Washington Capitals will always be special to me.

After this game the Caps would go on and win both games 3 and 4 in Montreal. They looked good and bound to go on and do something special in the 2010 playoffs.

But…We all know what happened next.