WASHINGTON --Mike Cammalleri was tapping his stick on the ice, calling out to Tomas Plekanec that he was open, to pass him the puck. Plekanec usually defers to Cammalleri, but this time he chose option No. 2.
It was the right thing to do.
Plekanec rifled a shot from between the circles that beat Washington goalie Jose Theodore to the stick side 13:19 into overtime to lift the Montreal Canadiens to a surprising 3-2 win over the Presidents' Trophy-winning Capitals at Verizon Center.
Jaroslav Spacek sent the puck up the ice, off the right wing boards by the benches, and Plekanec picked it up in the neutral zone, carried into the offensive zone with speed and went against the grain with his shot, left to right, to beat a stunned Theodore.
Game 2 between the eighth-seeded Canadiens and top-seeded Capitals is back at Verizon Center on Saturday.
"It's a huge goal for our team," said Plekanec, who had four goals in 21 previous playoff games. "For me, personally, I am happy to score that goal, but it doesn't matter who scores the goal in the playoffs. Stats don't matter."
The winning play started on the other end when Capitals defenseman Joe Corvo's diagonal pass, targeted for Nicklas Backstrom, appeared to hit off of Plekanec's stick and carom up. The puck came to Spacek and as Alex Ovechkin started to change, he was able to bang the puck off the boards, past Backstrom and up to Plekanec.
Plekanec beat Capitals' defenseman Shaone Morrisonn into the zone -- and once he got there, Corvo was backing up, basically asking him to shoot. Plekanec, a left-handed shot, stepped into his shot and ripped the puck inside the right post.
"Tomas was skating across and I kind of lost him for a second," said Theodore, who made 35 saves. "He did a good job of shooting against the grain. I was moving one way and he shot the other way. He's a skilled player, and it was a good shot."
Cammalleri, who was skating on Plekanec's left wing and clearly was calling for the puck, joked that it was a good thing his buddy scored -- because if not he was going to get chewed out for not passing.
"I'm 7-11, I'm always open," Cammalleri said to a chorus of laughter from the gathered media. "If he scores, I'm happy. But, if he misses he would have heard an earful."
There was very little joking going on in the Capitals' dressing room. Washington fell victim to the same home-ice curse that got to San Jose, Pittsburgh and New Jersey the previous night.
Even worse for the Capitals was that Montreal found a way to keep Ovechkin from getting a single shot on goal. It's only the second time all season that a team has held Ovechkin without a shot and just the fourth time in his five-year NHL career.
Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said simply that Ovechkin wasn't very good. Ovechkin, who was also held without a point for the third time in five games this season against Montreal, credited the Canadiens for bottling him up.
"It's just one game," Ovechkin said. "We have 24 hours to realize it. Right now we're mad and right now we're disappointed, but tomorrow is going to be a new day and it'll be a new game."
Washington looked poised to take control early in the third period when Mike Knuble set up Backstrom for a goal just 47 seconds in. However, the Capitals couldn't build on their 2-1 lead, and less than seven minutes later Brian Gionta feathered a pass through the slot for Scott Gomez, who had an easy tap-in for the tie.
Ovechkin tried to take out Gomez at the red line but instead took himself out of the play, leaving Gionta open down the right wing. Gomez never stopped after dishing the puck and went around Mike Green's blind side for the tap-in.
"After giving up the goal early in the (third) period I think they used good puck movement and a good passing play to score the tying goal," Montreal coach Jacques Martin said of Gionta and Gomez -- former linemates in New Jersey.
The score remained 2-2 going into overtime, and Montreal took control. The Habs had 10 shots to the Cap's six but still finished the game down in the shots department, 47-38.
Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak stopped 45 shots to improve to 7-0-0 this season when he faces 40 or more shots.
"That's Jaro, he needs to play that way for us to win and he has," Cammalleri said. "There's nothing else to really say about that."
Halak didn't have any explanation for his overwhelming success in games when he is exceptionally busy. He was, however, impressed by the composure his team kept in the face of adversity, especially early when the Caps pounded the net for 19 shots on goal.
"It was huge," Halak said. "Everybody realizes that in this locker room that we need to get together. Even if you get behind like we did tonight you have to keep battling."
It's hard to ignore the rich irony that accompanied Plekanec's goal. He was, of course, the same player who got caught in a mini-firestorm earlier this week for his comments regarding Theodore.
Plekanec insists his words were taken out of context, but nevertheless a controversy was created when he said he's happy the Habs got to face Theodore in the first round instead of Martin Brodeur or Ryan Miller because the edge in net swung to Montreal's side.
Theodore didn't like hearing Plekanec say anything about him, so he went on the offensive and asked the media if those comments were coming from Jaromir Jagr.
Theodore was basically saying that while he's not Brodeur or Miller, Plekanec, a Czech forward, is no Jagr either.
"It wasn't right what was in the newspapers," Plekanec said. "I was clear and I didn't do anything bad or say anything bad about Theo. I would never do that. I respect him big time. He won the (Hart) Trophy for his performance in Montreal. I've played with him and he's a good goalie."
A good goalie that Plekanec found a way to beat for his biggest goal of his season.
"I just wanted to put the puck on net," Plekanec said.
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
Shift of the game: It's odd to give this to a goalie, who really takes one game-long shift, but Jose Theodore saved the Capitals big-time midway through the second period when the game was still tied 1-1. He made three point-blank stops, two on Tomas Plekanec and one on Benoit Pouliot, within a span of six seconds before covering the puck with 9:02 remaining in the period. It was a huge sequence by a goalie who has dealt with a lot of naysayers throughout the season.
1 - 0 MTL
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 WSH
2 - 2 Tie
1st OT Period
3 - 2 MTL