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Habs' PK changed tide with early 5-on-3 kill

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Habs' PK changed tide with early 5-on-3 kill
The Canadiens faced a moment of truth when they had to kill a 5-on-3 situation while up 2-0 early in Game 6 -- not only didn’t they allow a goal, they didn’t let the Capitals get a single shot against goalie Jaroslav Halak.
MONTREAL -- Jaroslav Halak deserved the first star of the night for his 53 saves. He deserved to hear his name being chanted by the 21,273 screaming fans inside Bell Centre. He deserved to be lauded by his teammates.

The Montreal Canadiens goalie deserved every accolade, big or small, that he got Monday night and will get until the puck is dropped for Game 7 at Verizon Center on Wednesday night.

But even Halak knows that Hal Gill, Josh Gorges, Tomas Plekanec and Tom Pyatt deserve their share of the credit for how they stifled and stymied the Washington Capitals for 75 seconds during a 5-on-3 late in the first period Monday night. Without that enormous penalty kill, maybe Halak isn't the story from the Habs' 4-1 victory in Game 6.

With Gill and Gorges playing back and Plekanec and Pyatt splitting time up top in the triangle, the Canadiens did not let Washington get one shot through to Halak during the 5-on-3. That kill preserved the Habs' early 2-0 lead and was probably the most important part of the game based on the time and the potential for a major momentum shift.

"It was crucial at that time in the hockey game," Montreal coach Jacques Martin said. "They played it extremely well."

Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau was sure that his 1-for-24 power play was finally going to break out during the two-man advantage that got set up because Montreal defenseman Roman Hamrlik inadvertently flipped the puck over the glass.

But, as has been the case with the Caps' broken power play all series, they were not able to get off quality shots. Boudreau said it was because they were "being too cute," but in reality it was because the Canadiens were distorting every possible look the Caps could have had.

Gill dove in the passing lanes, laying out his lurch-like 6-foot-7 frame every time Nicklas Backstrom wanted to make a pass from the right wing half-wall. Gorges kept Ovechkin tamed on the other side. Plekanec covered the backside. When Pyatt came on for him, he did the same thing.

"We just got in the way, and I think more than blocking shots we discouraged a lot of shots," Gill said. "We were on the spot. We had a quick five seconds to talk about our plan before we went out there, and I think we executed pretty well."

Montreal didn't allow Washington any good looks off of cross-crease passes because those passes were taken away. The point shots were also negated.

The Capitals had no choice but to look cute during the 5-on-3 because they couldn't get anything to the front of the net.

"I thought we had a good game plan, and the three of us that were out there, the biggest thing is we moved in sync. When the puck moved down, we all rotated in the right patterns. We didn't get confused or running around. We were able to stay tight and stay in the lanes."
-- Josh Gorges

"I thought we did a great job of keeping them to the outside and forcing them into a lot of tough plays and tough passes, shots they didn't want to shoot, and it deterred them from shooting," Gorges said. "If you're in the lane, any good player with his head up is not going to shoot it because he's not going to get it through.
 
"I thought we had a good game plan, and the three of us that were out there, the biggest thing is we moved in sync. When the puck moved down, we all rotated in the right patterns. We didn't get confused or running around. We were able to stay tight and stay in the lanes."

The momentum shift during those meaningful 75 seconds could be felt on the Habs' bench.

"Tremendous job by the guys out there," forward Michael Cammalleri said. "Great stick by Josh to make some reads there and take passes away, and by Hal to get big and take out the shots that they wanted. And our best penalty killer is the goalie once again."

He was for the Capitals' remaining four power plays, but not on the 5-on-3. Halak didn't have to be.
 
"Our guys did a great job because they didn't have any shots on me, they blocked so many shots," Halak said. "Hal Gill on the left side did an amazing job there and he gave them no chance to pass it or shoot it. He was like a second goalie out there."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl


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