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Canadiens take Game 1 win with measured calmness

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Canadiens take Game 1 win with measured calmness
Winning Game 1 vs. the Caps was a terrific achievement for the Canadiens, but they remain focused on what's coming, not what's past.
WASHINGTON -- In each corner of the visitor's dressing room late Thursday night there was a calm, composed and, yes, thrilled player talking to the media about what went right.

The Montreal Canadiens are leaving the shock and awe of their 3-2 overtime victory in Game 1 against the Washington Capitals to all the outsiders. Inside this room, one that is filled with veterans and a few Stanley Cup winners, there was no sign of surprise.

"I don't think it's a surprise," Canadiens left wing Mike Cammalleri said. "I think there is a belief in this room that we can win. At the same time there is a big respect for how good that team is that we just played. It wasn't like we dominated the hockey game. They outshot us (47 to 38) and probably could have been up a few, but Jaro (Halak) played well. It's not a surprise, but at the same time it's almost a little bit of, 'Hey, these guys are that good.' "

Yes, the Capitals are that good -- they had 103 more goals, 15 more wins and 33 more points than the Canadiens this season. And, they dominated stretches of Game 1, including most of the first 20 minutes when they had 19 shots to Montreal's seven.

The Canadiens knew that could happen and probably would happen. The question heading into Game 1 was how would they weather the inevitable Capitals' onslaught.

They answered with a bang.

Alex Ovechkin didn't get a shot on goal for only the second time this season and fourth time in his career, and the Canadiens' best players were better than the Capitals' best players.

Scott Gomez had his first goal in 15 games and Cammalleri his first in 13. Hal Gill, who won the Cup last season with Pittsburgh, was credited with nine blocked shots. Halak made 45 saves.

"Well they played well (in the first period), but I didn't think that we played that bad," said Tomas Plekanec, who scored the overtime winner with 6:41 remaining. "Obviously they pressured us big time and they had some power-play time and got some shots there and a couple of good chances. We picked it up in the second period, so we did better. We were a little more passive in the first period than we intended to be."

They got away with it because Halak was excellent. He made 18 saves in the first period to keep the score 1-1 after 20 minutes, and improved to 7-0 this season when he faces 40 or more shots.

Halak gave up 11 goals over the last three games of the season (0-1-2), but he erased that bad finish with a great start to the postseason. The Canadiens helped their goalie by finally controlling the puck for stretches in the second period and a lot in OT as well.

"Jaro for sure was a factor, especially early in the game," Montreal coach Jacques Martin said. "The first period we could have been in trouble, but he made some big saves and kept us in the game. He gave us a chance to get our momentum, to get our game going and after that when he was called upon he made big saves."

His impressive, second-star performance aside, Halak was also quick to point out that it was only Game 1 and it's not every day that you're going to hold Ovechkin without a shot and the Capitals to only two goals.

Ovechkin has been held without a shot only four times in his five-year NHL career and the Capitals averaged 3.82 goals per game this season.

"You know what, you can't really go too high," Halak said. "It's only Game 1 and we are still really far away. Every game is a different game, like they always say. We just need to get ready for Saturday (7 p.m. ET, Versus, TSN). We just need try to do the same thing as we did (Thursday)."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl


Quote of the Day

Obviously a lot happened in a short period of time. At the end of the day, considering everything I went through, I really felt close to my teammates and I really feel like what we accomplished, I know we didn't win it all. ... I'm really proud of how we got there and what we did once we got there.

— Rangers forward Martin St. Louis to Jim Cerny of BlueshirtsUnited.com