About last night …

Was that it, the last home game of the season?

You have to think so.

Your Montreal Canadiens have played their hearts out through four games against a much better hockey team.

They’ve won a period here, a period there.

But as has been the case all season, domination has not translated into goals.

Mistakes have occurred; and as happens with dismaying frequency against a superior opponent, the mistakes have ended up in the back of the Canadiens’ net – often behind luckless Carey Price, who hasn’t won a hockey game in 50 DAYS!!

Price probably will get another chance Friday night in Washington.

And anything can happen.

But let’s not delude ourselves.

This smells over.

•  •  •

Check the video of Ovechkin ice-spraying the flag kid.

Would Sid do that?

tzta6AESBEU

Comment of the Night, from Sisu:

This series was won years
ago.  2003 through 2006, to be exact.

Over
this period, one club went 52-87-22-3 (.460), and for its efforts was
rewarded with Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.  The other team
went 83-61-16-4 (.567) and was rewarded with Kyle Chipchura and David
Fischer.

The key to NHL success: be sufficiently awful in the
most opportune years.

•  •  •

It’s one of the most hackneyed clichés in sports.

But Hal Gill, by virtue of his superb play in this almost-over series, earned the right to use it.

“You’re an inch away from a good play,” Gill said of his effort to contain Alexander Ovechkin on the sequence that became Washington’s go-ahead goal.

Ah, a game of inches. 

And during the off-season that looms, the Canadiens will have a lot of time to think about how close they came to upsetting the number-one seed in the NHL.

Washington’s always quotable coach, Bruce Boudreau, was gracious in victory while chronicling the progress of the series.

“Game one they won,” Boudreau said. “Game two they should have won. And tonight they should have won after two periods.”

Coulda, shoulda, woulda: that ought to be one of the forward lines on your Montreal Canadiens.

After 40 minutes, they had outshot Washington 33-18, including a 21-9 bombardment in the second period.

The Canadiens coulda had more goals, if it weren’t for the excellence of Semyon Varlamov.

They shoulda gone to the dressing room with a 2-1 lead, but didn’t because late-period carelessness led to Mike Knuble’s shorthanded goal with seven seconds left in the period. Given the situation – one-goal lead, building rocking, on the PP – how in the world do you give up a textbook 2-on-1?

You do it by having Roman Hamrlik pinch and miss Tom Poti’s clearing chip off the left boards, sending Boyd Gordon and Mike Knuble away. Then Josh orges couldn’t intercept the pass or cover the shooter. Goal!

Jacques Martin said Andrei Markov and MAB, his first-wave point men, were tired and had to be subbed. The second-wave Dmen were caught.

A crusher. And Hamrlik has been on for shorties in TWO straight games.

One more season of the Hammer at $5.5 million. Thanks, Bob.

But mark this down: Many teams woulda folded in the face of the heartbreak the Canadiens have endured in this series.

The Canadiens didn’t quit. They battled hard against a superior team, but after 40 dominant minutes produced an unlikely tie score, the boys didn’t have much in the tank for the third period.

How bad was the final 20 minutes?

Washington outshot the Canadiens 20-6.

Andrei Markov, the best defenceman on the team, was minus-2 for the third period.

Marc-André Bergeron, not the best defenceman, was minus-3 over the last 20 minutes.

In noting how well the Canadiens have played, Boudreau said “I’d be frustrated if I was them.”

The frustration showed late in the game, when Price drew two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, the first for firing the puck into a gaggle of Capitals celebrating the Jason Chimera goal that made it 4-2, the second for whacking Nicklas Backstrom with his stick … from the bench.

Mike Cammalleri later alluded to “immaturity” without singling Price out, but I thought the childish rage was evidence of an athlete who cared.

Price played well. He had no chance on the SH goal that turned the momentum of the game, nor on Ovechkin’s laser fired past a screening Gill.

I see Price getting the start in Washington on Friday night.

And I see him getting another one when the 2010-’11 season begins in October.

•  •  •

So maybe some good Xs-and-Os peeps in the Commentariat can explain why the Canadiens have sucked on faceoffs in this series.

Tomas Plekanec was 5-13 in Game 4. Scott Gomez was 10-14.

Hard to get anything going when you’re chasing puck possession all night.

•  •  •

Ryan O’Byrne had seven hits, blocked four shots and was the only Dman to finish with a plus.

He should play Friday night, regardless of whether Jaro Spacek is good to go.

The Canadiens have to start thinking about next season, and O’B should be part of those plans.

•  •  •

Sergei Kostitsyn was plus-2 in eight minutes of solid play.

No disrespect to Mathieu Darche, who’s a warrior with a great work ethic, but talent-wise, there”s just no cpmparison.

•  •  •

With all due respect to the Canadiens, a team that gives them 21 shots in 20 minutes might not be the most serious Stanley Cup aspirant emerging from the first round.

The Caps’ D might be charitably described as ordinary. Their forwards are not the most diligent backcheckers in the league.

But they are something to watch from the blueline in.

We’re used to the Ovie Show, but Nicklas Backstrom – plus-4 on the night – has been lights-out in this series.

And Alexander Semin is showing signs of emerging from his torpor.

 

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