MONTREAL -- Finally, what we were anticipating all along.
It took seven periods for the Washington Capitals to exert their full will on the Montreal Canadiens at both ends of the ice, but it happened in a big way in the second period of Game 3 Monday night at Bell Centre.
Washington chased Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak from the game by scoring three goals on six shots in the first 8:33 of the second. Carey Price replaced Halak and just over five minutes later he gave one up to Alex Ovechkin, who scored from his knees.
The Capitals gave one back early in the third, but thanks to their barrage in the second and an insurance goal from Matt Bradley in the final minute they were able to finish off a 5-1 victory that gives them a 2-1 lead in this best-of-seven first-round series.
Washington goalie Semyon Varlamov, who got his first start of the series, made 26 saves. He was beaten by Tomas Plekanec for a power-play goal 2:25 into the third.
Game 4 is back at Bell Centre on Wednesday night, but you have to wonder if the Canadiens stand a puncher's chance of getting back in this series after the way they were dismantled in just 13 minutes and 50 seconds by the League's best offense.
"I'm worried like crazy today and I'll worry tomorrow about the next game," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I think like any team that gets in the playoffs, you are confident you're a good team but we're also confident that we're playing a really good team. There's no reason for us to have swagger. We've won two games. You have to win four, and then you have to win 12 more."
Boudreau may be worried, but his team silenced a lot of doubters Monday.
The Capitals got secondary scoring from Boyd Gordon, Brooks Laich, Eric Fehr and Bradley. The defense, especially the maligned top pair of Mike Green and Jeff Schultz, was solid. And Varlamov came up big to make Boudreau's decision on a starter for Game 4 easy.
From top to bottom, the Capitals dominated the Canadiens after a back-and-forth scoreless first period.
"For the whole game I think we played well, but we have to push on," Ovechkin said. "Bruce said we have 15 minutes to enjoy it and after that we forget it and concentrate on the next game."
The Canadiens will definitely want to forget about Game 3 in a hurry, but with an off day Tuesday they won't be afforded that luxury. There are questions about this team that did not exist after their 3-2 overtime victory in Game 1.
The biggest of them all is the same question that Boudreau had to answer after Game 2 -- the dreaded one about who will start in goal Wednesday night.
Halak gave up goals to Gordon, Laich and Fehr in less than seven-and-a-half minutes before getting pulled 8:33 into the second period. Rebounds were his biggest enemy.
The Slovak Olympian has now given up eight goals on the last 32 shots he's faced since Montreal took a 4-1 lead in Game 2. He's given up nine goals on 50 shots over the last two games.
This is a stunning turnaround after Halak's wonderful 45-save performance in Game 1.
"I think you're trying to change the momentum at that point," Montreal coach Jacques Martin said of why he pulled Halak. "After a tremendous first period we had lost the momentum and it was 3-0 at that time, and sometimes a change in goalie helps."
It didn't help. In fact, the Canadiens only got worse. As the second period wore on they started to lose more than the game, they lost their composure, too.
Brian Gionta was whistled for cross checking Jason Chimera in the back at the 15:08 mark. Scott Gomez showed his frustrations by chirping at the referees, an emotional outburst that cost him a 10-minute misconduct.
"I probably said something I shouldn't have said," Gomez said.
Less than three minutes later, Plekanec was called for interference on Fehr and then he got an extra two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct because he apparently couldn't keep his mouth shut either.
"We were down, obviously we were emotional," Plekanec said. "It's a big emotion because it's the playoffs and you don't want to lose the games. Emotions are good, but you've got to control them and tonight we didn't control them good enough. That's one thing we have to get better at. Frustration doesn't get us anywhere."
Outside of scoring in bunches, the best thing the Capitals did Monday night was stay cool. They did not retaliate against Gionta, Gomez, Plekanec or any other Canadien that tried to start trouble.
"They were the ones talking on the bench about, 'Don't get involved in this stuff, we don't need it,' " Boudreau said. "I think Chimera did a great job when (Maxim) Lapierre, after it was 3-0, was challenging him and then (Gionta) went and took a penalty on him in the same shift. Then there was the 10-minute misconduct and a double-minor, and though we didn't score it sure sapped the emotion out of the crowd and the game."
Washington had already done that with three goals in less than nine minutes.
The Bell Centre crowd was as loud as it has ever been, cheering throughout the entire pre-game show, the anthems and the scoreless first period.
They went nuts for Halak and relentlessly booed Ovechkin. They even chanted Jose Theodore's name -- "Tay-oh, Tay-oh, Tay-oh" -- and the former Habs' goalie wasn't even playing, just sitting on the Caps' bench wearing a hat.
However, by the middle of the second period the booing of Ovechkin had stopped along with the cheering of Halak. Washington had this one in the bag.
"That's the type of efforts we need to win," Green said. "When everyone plays like that -- they don't have much out there. Really, they don't."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
Shift of the Night: Eric Fehr not only made the play to set up Brooks Laich's shot, but he also put home the rebound to give the Caps a 3-0 lead with 11:27 remaining in the second period. Fehr got around Marc-Andre Bergeron in the corner before feeding up to Brendan Morrison. As Morrison passed the puck to Laich for a one-timer, Fehr darted to the net. He tapped in the rebound of Laich's shot, ending Jaroslav Halak's night early.
1 - 0 WSH
2 - 0 WSH
3 - 0 WSH
4 - 0 WSH
4 - 1 WSH
5 - 1 WSH
Power Play Stats
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Misconduct (10 min)
Interference on goalkeeper