"It's tough after a loss to look at the big picture, but yeah, for sure, we went on the road and we got one," Canadiens defenseman Hal Gill said after the Washington Capitals rallied for a 6-5 OT win in Game 2 to even the series. "We battled both games and we're going to go home to a great crowd and feed off of that."
The Canadiens were 81 seconds away from going home with a surprising 2-0 lead in this best-of-7 series against the Presidents' Trophy winners. They were that close to stunning the hockey world and skating onto the ice at the Bell Centre on Monday night in command of the series.
But some passive defense allowed Washington rookie defenseman John Carlson to score the game-tying goal, a hard wrist shot from the top of the left circle past Jaroslav Halak with 1:21 remaining in regulation.
Gill and Josh Gorges were caught backpedaling as Nicklas Backstrom came into the zone with speed after going around Tomas Plekanec at the red line. He made a nice drop pass to Carlson, who in one motion ripped a shot just over Halak's catching glove.
Mike Cammalleri was going to take a slashing penalty for breaking Alex Ovechkin's stick at the far blue line, but the Canadiens never touched the puck again. Just like that, the game was tied at 5-5 -- and the Capitals had momentum.
Washington is carrying that momentum into Montreal because Backstrom scored on a similar-looking wrist shot that he put through Roman Hamrlik's legs and past Halak just 31 seconds into overtime.
"When you look at the goals, the last two goals, it's a situation where we let them penetrate the zone," Montreal coach Jacques Martin said. "Once we got the fifth goal (Plekanec scored with 5:06 left in regulation), we're in good shape. But there was going to be a penalty call and it seems like it froze our players. We gave them the blue line and it was a good shot that beat (Halak). A very similar situation on the winning goal."
Gill said the Canadiens have to be better at collapsing around all of the Capitals stars -- including Backstrom, who had a hat trick, and Ovechkin, who had a four-point night.
"They've got a lot of offensive talent over there and they're going to score goals. We have to limit their chances a little more," forward Brian Gionta said. "Obviously if you look at tonight's game they are shooting everything from everywhere and trying to get guys (to the net). We have to do a better job of backtracking and staying with our gap to try to limit the amount of times they can walk over the blue line with their head up."
Montreal's inability to counter the Capitals as they came into the zone is partly why the Canadiens blew a 4-1 lead and then gave the game away.
Despite all that, the Habs were not devastated after Game 2. They were not pouting, hanging their heads or wondering how difficult it's going to be to beat a team as deep and talented as the Caps that is now feeling it and surging into La Belle Province.
"It's tough after a loss to look at the big picture, but yeah, for sure, we went on the road and we got one. We battled both games and we're going to go home to a great crowd and feed off of that."
-- Hal Gill
Can it really be that easy to put a letdown like they experienced Saturday night to bed so quickly?
"I don't know if it's easy; it's never easy," Gionta said. "Any loss in the playoffs is a big loss but obviously we need to learn from it and forget about it as quick as we can. That's another key to playoff hockey. Things happen so quick. You're right back at it so you have to forget about it and learn from the mistakes."
Or, in the Habs' case, remember what they did well to accomplish their mission in D.C.
"We came here for one. We got our one," Cammalleri said. "Now it's time to go home and play. I liked our team (Saturday). I think we did a lot of good things. We're still getting better. We're still excited about our potential. It was a good game."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl