MONTREAL – Taking penalties against the Washington Capitals isn’t a recipe for success. If anything, it will likely cost you one or possibly two points in the standings.
On Thursday night, Barry Trotz’s contingent made the Canadiens pay for spending time in the sin bin, lighting the lamp three times with the man advantage en route to posting a 5-4 shootout win at the Bell Centre. Alex Ovechkin accounted for two of those power play markers with his 51st and 52nd goals of the season, becoming the Capitals’ all-time leading goal scorer in the process.
“We were right with them at 5-on-5. If we play at even-strength, we put ourselves in a good position. Unfortunately, we spent too much time in the penalty box. That gave them a chance to get back in the game. They’ve got a sharp power play. They really took advantage when they got the chance,” offered Lars Eller, referencing the Capitals’ League-leading power play units that have clicked 25.3 percent of the time during the 2014-15 campaign. “They’ve got a lot of weapons. They’ve got two lefty playmakers, three righty shots. It’s the perfect setup, two guys that can dish and three guys that can shoot. When you play short-handed, some way they’re going to have a 2-on-1. You try to give them the worst possible angle to shoot from. Sometimes, it’s not enough. Washington is good at taking advantage of that.”
That’s for sure. Michel Therrien’s troops simply couldn’t contain the likes of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Joel Ward up front, and John Carlson on the back end, particularly when they went to work while up a man. Goaltender Braden Holtby also made 23 stops to pick up his 39th win of the year.
“I thought we were the better team 5-on-5, but from a penalty killing standpoint, we had a really tough time. I could understand that this is the best power play in the League, but we’ve got to do a much better job. We can’t allow them to score three goals,” stressed Therrien, whose squad conceded more than two power play goals in a single game for the first time this season on Thursday night. “We did a lot of good things. We were aggressive on the puck carrier. We had scoring chances. But, our penalty kill really hurt us. It wasn’t good. We need to do a better job than that.”
Charged with keeping Ovechkin off the scoresheet, P.K. Subban was especially disappointed with the way things played out in the team’s penultimate home game of the regular season.
“I wasn’t good enough on Ovechkin. I made that play a million times where I close on a guy and I have my stick in the right position. At that point, it felt like it was a half-way breakaway. I kind of overplayed it a little bit and I can’t have him cut back in the middle,” offered Subban, referencing Ovechkin’s second period tally that beat Carey Price upstairs on the glove side. “It’s a breakdown on the penalty kill. I wish I could take that one back. I would have played it differently. I don’t know if I can say I did a good job when a guy scores two goals in a game.”
Subban certainly did his job on offense, though, chipping in with a goal and two assists. He wasn’t the only rearguard to get in on the action, as Jeff Petry and Tom Gilbert also found the back of the net in the loss. That was little consolation, however, for either of those defenders.
“I felt good out there, but I wish we could’ve ended up with the two points. Now, it’s a quick turnaround and we have another one [on Friday night in New Jersey]. We have to focus on that,” mentioned Petry, who scored his second goal in as many games on Thursday night. “We had a strong start to the game. I think we played well. We were good on the forecheck, but we took too many penalties that cost us.”
And, going into a game against a New Jersey Devils team ranked ninth in the League with the man advantage, they simply can’t afford to make similar mistakes again.
“Their power play produced everything they wanted. We’ve just got to go back and look at what we did, work on our penalty kill and build off 5-on-5,” concluded Gilbert, who returned to the Canadiens’ lineup after missing four games with a fractured jaw. “It’s the best power play in the League and we let them back in the game. It’s just something we’ve got to be more disciplined about.”Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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