CAPITALS at CANADIENS
(Best-of-7 series tied, 3-3)
Big story -- It's Game 7. It's win or go home. It's do or die. Fill in your cliché here. Montreal has won back-to-back games behind goalie Jaroslav Halak to force Game 7 at VerizonCenter on Wednesday night. It's the fourth time in a row in the last three postseasons that the Capitals will host a Game 7 in their own building. They lost two of the first three.
Canadiens -- Halak has stopped 90 of the last 92 shots he's faced after giving up three goals on four shots before being pulled in the second period of Game 3. His resiliency is astounding, and if the Habs manage to pull this off it will likely be because of him. But, the Canadiens' penalty kill has also been great. It has allowed only one goal in 30 times shorthanded, and didn't even allow a shot during a 5-on-3 for 75 seconds late in the first period of Game 6. Halak, of course, has been the Habs' best penalty killer and made 18 of his 53 saves Monday night while Montreal was shorthanded. Important, too, is the goal that Maxim Lapierre scored Monday -- it was only the second goal the Habs have gotten from a bottom-six forward. If they get secondary scoring Wednesday, it could be lights out at the VerizonCenter.
"Loser goes home," center Scott Gomez said. "It's exciting to play in a Game 7 and we have the opportunity to move on. This is the position we wanted to be in. We'll let it all out tomorrow and get the game plan tonight. To fight back, it's still a long way and let's not forget that Washington has played some Game 7s too. It'll be who's going to get the breaks and who's going to get the bounces that makes the difference."
Capitals -- The goal: Avoid disaster. This might not be the most important game in the history of Washington's hockey team, but it certainly is the one that could bring about the most negativity -- should the Capitals lose. It still seems so unfathomable that the Capitals could lose this series after winning three straight to take a 3-1 lead. Similarly, it seems unfathomable that the Capitals have only one power-play goal in 30 chances during the series after leading the NHL during the regular season. And, to go one further, it still seems so unfathomable that they have scored only two goals in the last 120 minutes. But the Caps can wash all those negative vibes right down the drain with a vintage performance Wednesday night. VerizonCenter should be red and rocking.
"Tomorrow is a day one team is going to be going on vacation," captain Alex Ovechkin said. "I don't want to think about vacation right now."
Who's hot -- For the Habs, left wing Michael Cammalleri scored twice in Game 6 and leads the team with 5 goals and 10 points, but Halak is the only player in this series that anyone can truly say is on fire right now. His save percentage is up to .931 thanks to his 90 stops over the last two games. He is 9-0-1 when he faces 40 or more shots.
Injury report -- Washington defenseman Tom Poti is out with a right eye injury that he suffered late in the second period Monday night. Montreal defenseman Jaroslav Spacek has missed the last three games with chest congestion. He accompanied the team to D.C., but his status for Game 7 is still very much in doubt.
Stat pack -- Washington is 1-2 in Game 7s at home under coach Bruce Boudreau, but 6-2 in games where they are facing elimination. They are 2-6 lifetime in Game 7s and 2-5 at home. Montreal is 11-8 all-time in Game 7s… Montreal has allowed just 1.33 goals per game in their three wins while Washington has scored 5.67 goals per game in its three wins. The Capitals' shooting percentage in their three wins is 15.3 percent (17 for 111) and just 2.9 percent in their three losses (4 for 139). … Washington is 23 shots shy of a club record for shots in a series. The Caps had 273 in the 1987 Patrick Division Semifinals against the Islanders. Game 7 of that series went into the fourth overtime and the Caps finished with 75 shots on goal -- but lost. … Gomez has suited up for six Game 7s in his 10-year career, including in the 2000 and 2003 Stanley Cup Final when he was with the Devils. They won both times.
Puck drop -- If the Capitals win, they will have home-ice advantage against Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference Semifinal. If the Canadiens win, they will travel to Pittsburgh for Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal.
"You can challenge yourself and your teammates in the playoffs and it's so much fun, but the epitome of it is a Game 7," Cammalleri said. "No matter what happens (Wednesday) night, someone is going to shake someone's hand as the winner and someone's going to shake someone's hand as the loser. The compete level is up, the battle level is up and you can push yourself more. I hope to keep doing it until mid-June."