Underdogs never get a break.
Not from the refs, who let the Washington Capitals run roughshod over Jaroslav Halak.
And not from the sleeping Big Dogs who trailed 4-1 before waking up to turn this series around.
Hey, make no mistake: This was a catastrophe.
The Canadiens flew back to Montreal in a state of shock – and no one is feeling it more than the number one goaltender.
Jaro Halak allowed six goals on 37 shots.
He was not strong on a long shot by John Carlson that tied the game with 1:21 left.
But don’t blame Jaro for the winner.
The superb Nicklas Backstrom scored with Roman Hamrlik backing in and giving the Washington sniper all the time and space he needed to fire a laser.
So shall we get right into it?
Who’s in nets for Game 3?
And if it’s Jaro, how long is the leash?
The gang on L’Antichambre were on Jacques Martin pretty good.
Should he have called timeout at some point when Washington was rallying from 4-1?
Should a cerebral and instinctively undemonstrative coach have pulled a Playfair to let the refs know the Caps were mugging Halak?
Ah, what’s the point of second-guessing?
The series is tied 1-1. Few expected the Canadiens to steal a game in Washington.
They’ve knocked José Theodore out of this series … and maybe out of the playoffs.
Andrei Kostitsyn got a hat trick: nine goals in 18 playoff games, and if he played like this in the regular season, the enigmatic AK46 would be a 40-goal scorer.
The Canadiens blocked 30 shots, 12 by the team of Hamrlik and Jaro Spacek. (Hamrlik blocked seven more shots than José Theodore).
The Tomas Plekanec line has its groove back.
Benny Pouliot played a very solid two-way game.
The PK was perfect in three shorthanded situations to run their series kills to 7-for-7.
The series is a best of five, with the next two at the Bell Centre.
The coaching staff and the veteran core of the team will have to rally the room after this crushing defeat.
It ain’t over … but man, what might have been, eh?
The Canadiens had them.
They routed Theodore, they’d beaten Semyon Varlamov twice.
Norris candidate Mike Green was a mess – on the ice for three of the Canadiens’ four goals.
Alexander Ovechkin was still asleep. Alexander Semin was comatose.
Then Backstrom got in gear. The Capitals began gaining the Canadiens zone at speed.
The Canadiens’ D, superb for five periods, began backing in and making errors.
Scott Gomez, brilliant in this series, got into a pointless scrap with Tom Poti and sat for five minutes. It was a momentum changer – as was a lengthy and inexplicable video review of a play that preceded AK46′s third goal.
The Capitals made life miserable for Jaro. Mike Knuble bumped him on the Backstrom goal that made it 4-2. At one point, Poti threw Jaro out of the crease.
A Gary Bettman/Ted Leonsis conspiracy involving unscrupulous refs?
C’mon. Let’s try to be serious.
It’s the playoffs. Smash-mouth time.
Think it’s an accident that Tomas Holmstrom and Johan Franzen – and Travis Moen – have their names on the Stanley Cup.
Knuble et al may have unsetlled Jaro, but skill won this game.
Backstrom had a hat trick, an assist and six shots on goal.
Continuing his career pattern of huge bounce-back games, Ovechkin had a goal, three assists, six SoG and eight hits.
The Capitals came within 81 seconds of digging themselves a very deep hole in this series.
But that didn’t happen.
The NHL’s number one team bagged an emotional and inspirational W.
Can the number eight seed bounce back from a heartbreaker?
We’ll find out Monday night
• • •
Adam Gopnik – author, New Yorker staffer and Canadiens fan (he grew up in Montreal) – e-mails:
In 45 years of being a Canadiens fan, that may be the single most painful loss – anyway, I can’t think of another one where a key victory, opening up all kinds of horizons, was right in hand, twice, and then got away. I think Martin is unduly passive, neither pressuring the refs about running the goalie nor really adjusting to the moment, but that may be a small point. Anyway ….ow
• • •
Why Michel Therrien will wait a while for his next NHL job:
He criticized Bruce Boudreau for yanking Theo.
Ridiculous, even by the homeboy-boosting standards of L’Antichambre.