Jaroslav Halak, Canadiens Edge Capitals 2-1, Forcing Game 6

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WASHINGTON — Thanks to terrific
goaltending by Jaroslav Halak and a pair of early goals, the
eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens ensured Alex Ovechkin and the
Washington Capitals still have work to do in the first round of the
playoffs.

Halak made 37 saves in his return to
the net, Michael Cammalleri and Travis Moen scored on two of Montreal's
first five shots, and the Canadiens beat the top-seeded Capitals 2-1
Friday night in Game 5 to extend their Eastern Conference first-round
series.

The Capitals could have closed it out at home, but they will take a 3-2 series lead into Game 6 at Montreal on Monday.

In a key call, Canadiens coach
Jacques Martin went back to Halak — benching Carey Price, who took over
in goal during Game 3 and started Game 4.

The move worked against the
high-flying, NHL-leading offense of the Capitals, limiting them to
two-time MVP Ovechkin's second-period goal and helping silence a
standing-room-only crowd of 18,377 for stretches.

Also affecting the mood of the
spectators: Cammalleri put Montreal ahead 1-0 only 1 1/2 minutes into
the game — and on its third shot of the evening — by scoring against
goalie Semyon Varlamov off assists from Andrei Markov and Tomas
Plekanec
. It was Cammalleri's third goal of the series.

And at 7:01, two shots later, it was 2-0 on Moen's backhander off assists from Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez.

It was reminiscent of the start of
Game 2, also in Washington, when Montreal scored on each of its first
two shots, prompting Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau to yank Jose
Theodore
and insert Varlamov.

Montreal led 4-1 in the second period
of that game before Washington turned things around, outscoring the
Canadiens 15-5 from there until the end of Game 4, seemingly wresting
control of the series.

This time, though, there was no switch, and Varlamov kept Washington in the game, finishing with 26 saves.

Halak was even better, even without
the help of defenseman Jaroslav Spacek, who did such a good job of
shadowing Ovechkin in Game 1 but sat out Game 4 and didn't make the
trip to Washington for Game 5 because of a virus.

It didn't matter. Halak was
particularly impressive in the first period, when he stuffed Alexander
Semin
on consecutive shots from close range, then made another reflex
stop on Boyd Gordon. The goalie finished the period with 15 saves.

The Capitals got to him early in the
second, pulling within 2-1 at 3:52, when Ovechkin maneuvered his way
through a scrum in front of the net to poke in a rebound of rookie
defenseman John Carlson's slap shot.

It was Ovechkin's fifth of the
series, all in the past four games, and he celebrated in his typically
exuberant manner, throwing his arms out wide and nodding his head.

Halak went back to being unbeatable.
He sprawled to deflect a shot from near a post by Eric Fehr during a
third-period power play. The Capitals led the NHL in power-play
percentage, but they've been stymied throughout this series, going 0-for-5 Friday to make them 1-for-24 overall. The Capitals have scored
twice as many short-handed goals (two) as they had scored with an extra
skater.

Later in the third, Halak blocked
another nearby attempt from Tomas Fleischmann. After yet one more nice
play by Halak, smothering the puck with three Capitals bearing down on
him, Ovechkin rolled his head back and looked up to the rafters.

Notes
After spectators in Montreal
booed the U.S. national anthem before Game 3, a few jeers were heard at
the outset of the Canadian national anthem Friday, but they were
quickly drowned out by applause. … The start of the second period was
delayed for about 10 minutes because of a problem with an overhead goal
camera. … Washington's Mike Green is a finalist for the Norris Trophy
— given to the NHL's top defenseman — for the second consecutive year.
Green topped the league's defensemen in goals (19) and assists (57).
… Montreal has trailed 3-1 in a best-of-seven series 16 times; it
came back to win once, against the Boston Bruins in 2004. … The crowd
roared and gave a standing ovation when former Capitals enforcer Donald
Brashear
was shown on the above-ice video screen, sitting in the
stands. Brashear acknowledged the cheers by blowing a kiss.

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