So many things went wrong last night. Jose Theodore, the defense, lack of power plays. Then again, just enough went right. The Washington Capitals defeated the Montreal Canadiens 6-5 in overtime to tie the opening series up 1-1. Nicklas Backstrom put in the winning goal just 31 seconds into OT, which also capped off a hat trick for him.
The game was a disaster from the opening drop of the puck. Canadiens' Brian Gionta scored just 1 minute into the game, on the first shot on goal. 7 minutes later, Andrei Kostitsyn scored the first of his hat trick goals, on the Habs second shot on goal. Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau saw enough and pulled Theodore for Semyon Varlamov. Eric Fehr scored to make the score respectable at 2-1 to end the 1st.
The second was even worse. Kostitsyn scored 2 more, capping his hat, and leaving the Caps down 4-1 with about 3 minutes left in the 2nd. The Comeback Kids looked like there was no comeback that night. But with about a minute and a half left, Backstrom scored his first goal.
Entering the 3rd period, the Capitals were on a roll. A late 2nd period penalty on the Canadiens left the Capitals with 1:40 power play to start the period. They failed to capitalize (no pun intended). But the star, Alex Ovechkin, did finally strike gold and brought the Caps within 1 at 4-3. Backstrom scored his 2nd a few minutes later and it was a new game with half the period to go. Unfortunately, Tomas Plekanac doused the Caps fire by scoring with only 5 minutes left in the game. Comeback would have to happen quick. They made it interesting with about a minute and a half left in regulation. Rookie John Carlson, hero of USA Junior team, scored and tied it up again 5-5.
This being the Stanley Cup playoffs, the full overtime period required a full intermission for the Zambonis to smooth the ice. The layover was tense, but Backstrom cut through it quick. Before some fans returned to their seats, he scored, just 31 seconds in, to lift the Caps to victory 6-5.
This is not how Boudreau, the Caps, fans, and even the NHL envisioned the playoffs going. But a win is a win, even if it was luck, and not skill. Neither team was better than the other. Defense and goaltending were suspect. Sometimes the best defense is a better offense and the Caps, or more specifically Backstrom, was the better offense. Varlamov was not much better than Theodore, though some of the goals he let in were special situations including defensive breakdowns and a power play. Boudreau is in a similar situation as last year, pulling Theodore for Varlamov and now needing to decide for the Game 3 starting net-minder. Let's hope whoever is in goal at the Bell Centre Monday does a better job than Saturday.