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Going to the net pays for Ovechkin, Caps

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Going to the net pays for Ovechkin, Caps
Alex Ovechkin sees a flaw in Jaroslav Halak's game and a winning strategy for the Caps headling into Game 3 Monday.
ARLINGTON, Va. -- While watching highlights of Game 2 early Sunday, Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin picked up on something interesting that he believes will help the Caps when their series against Montreal resumes Monday night (7 p.m. ET, TSN, RDS).

Ovechkin said he saw visual evidence of Canadiens' goalie Jaroslav Halak showing his nerves.

"I watched the replay when (Eric) Fehr scored the goal and his arm like was shaking when he drank water," Ovechkin said Sunday from Kettler Capitals Iceplex. "So, he's nervous. He knows all the pressure is on him and that's a good sign for us."

The key for the Capitals, Ovechkin said, is to keep the pressure on. Ovechkin said if the Caps play the same way they played in the third period of Game 2 for 60 minutes in Game 3, then they should have no problem at all taking a 2-1 lead in the series.

"If we're going to play our game, finish checks, shoot the puck and go to the net we're going to win," Ovechkin said. "If we're going to play the same way we played in the third period than we're going to be successful."

Ovechkin found success in the third period because he changed what he was doing. Instead of trying to rush the puck into the zone and fire like he loves to do, he went hard to the net.

He scored from the slot 2:56 into the third period by whacking the loose puck through Halak's five-hole. When Nicklas Backstrom scored late in the second period, Ovechkin joined Mike Knuble in front to screen the goalie.

And on Backstrom's game-tying goal 9:47 into the third, Ovechkin got the rebound of his own blocked shot because he never stopped going hard to the net. He finally gathered the puck in the corner and made a perfect pass to Backstrom in the slot for a tap-in.

"I watch Knuble or Brooks Laich, how they go to the net, and sometimes when they're standing there on the power play and I shoot the puck high it's a pretty scary moment," Ovechkin said. "But if you want to get some results you have to pay the price.

"In playoffs, and Bruce (Boudreau) said it, you have to shoot from everywhere," he added. "If it goes in it doesn't matter if it's off rebounds or goes straight in. The first game I didn't make a shot so I just said to myself you have to shoot from everywhere."

That's the good that came out of Saturday's win.

The bad was noticeable, too, and Ovechkin knows the Capitals' power play has to start producing and they need to be much better defensively, especially through the neutral zone.

"I think they're small, they're fast and they have pretty good skills," he said of the Habs. "When we have some mistakes in the neutral zone, they use it. The key is don't make some mistakes in the neutral zone."

The key on the power play is not so easy to figure out.

Washington, which had the best power play in the NHL by a landslide, is 0-for-7 with the man-advantage in this series. They had only four shots on three failed power plays Saturday night.

"Power play in playoffs, if you remember, we always have some problems but somehow, someway we have to find a way to play better and find a way to score goals because it's a very important part of the game for us," Ovechkin said.

He's actually being a bit too harsh in his assessment of the Capitals' power play over the previous two postseasons. Washington was 11-for-52 last season (21.1 percent) and 8-for-35 (22.9 percent) in the series against Philadelphia in 2008.

But history doesn't really matter right now.

"We had two different units (Saturday) and we might have two different units the next game," Boudreau said. "They're quick and they're reacting quick to our passes. They are obviously well-coached and well-schooled on how we bring the puck out and they're adjusting very well to that."

Backstrom said the Canadiens are doing a great job of taking Ovechkin out of the play and that's doing a lot of damage to the Capitals' power play.

"But, I still feel like we have opportunities to score because we have good chances," Backstrom said. "Special teams is so important and we have to be good at it if we're going to win."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

Quote of the Day

I downplayed the first one because I thought it's just a hockey game. We just want to win the game; it's against our rival and we want the two points. I downplayed it, but now having gone through the first one I look back and say, 'Geez, that was really cool.' I think as I've grown a bit older I've got a lot more appreciation for what we're allowed to do every day.

— Capitals forward Brooks Laich on the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, the second one of his career after 2011 in Pittsburgh