CAPITALS at CANADIENS
(Washington leads best-of-seven series, 3-1)
Big Story --
The Capitals can finish the Canadiens off Friday night at Verizon Center, where their red-clad fans have been rocking all season and they've won 31 of 43 games -- including one of two in this series. Montreal is on the ropes, but is clinging to hope that it can force a Game 6 back at Bell Centre on Monday. The Canadiens will have to stay disciplined and avoid giving up goals in bunches.
Will it be Carey Price
or will it be Jaroslav Halak? Once again, goaltending is a big question mark for the Habs. Price got his first start of the series in Game 4 and he was OK with 32 saves on 36 shots. Halak has given up seven goals on the last 27 shots he's faced. Montreal coach Jacques Martin will announce his starter at the morning skate Friday. Jaroslav Spacek
is also questionable after missing Game 4 with an illness. He skated only briefly on Thursday at the Canadiens' Brossard training center. More than anything, though, the Canadiens have to find their discipline. They have gotten frustrated in each of the last two games and it has gotten the better of them. The Capitals have a history of frustrating teams, but Montreal has to find a killer instinct, especially if it comes out and plays well in the first period.
"I don't think you avoid it, you accept it. You accept that frustration. You don't fight it. You acknowledge it and then do your best to move forward in a productive manner," forward Mike Cammalleri
said Thursday. "OK, we're frustrated. We've got a little fire in our belly and let's go play a game where we're not frustrated.''
Leading 3-1 in a first-round series is uncharted territory for these Capitals. In each of the last two postseasons they've gone down 3-1 only to come back and force a Game 7 at home. They lost to Philadelphia in 2008, but beat the New York Rangers last season. They also led Pittsburgh 2-0 in the second round last season, but lost in seven. So, the Caps have been on both ends of this and they know a desperate team is harder to beat. Montreal will be desperate Friday and the Caps have to match that desperation. A key will be jumping out to a good start to plant that seed of doubt in the Habs' minds.
"There are certain things in the game that you want to establish, and I think coming out and putting a lot of pressure on them early is one of them, then possibly scoring the first goal," defenseman Joe Corvo said. "Those are big things that we want to try to do to put doubt in their minds of them having any sort of comeback in the series."
Who's Hot --
Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin
has four goals in the last three games. Goalie Semyon Varlamov has allowed seven goals on 88 shots since replacing Jose Theodore 7:58 into Game 2. … Cammalleri leads the Canadiens with six points.
Injury Report --
Washington defenseman Milan Jurcina remains out after double hernia surgery. … Spacek is questionable for Montreal with an illness.
Stat Pack --
The Capitals have outscored the Canadiens 19-12 in the series so Montreal will have some minus players, but Marc-Andre Bergeron (minus-8), Tomas Plekanec
(minus-5) and Cammalleri (minus-5) were the bottom three in the League in the plus-minus statistical category entering Thursday's games. Washington's top line -- Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom
and Mike Knuble
-- has combined for 11 goals and 11 assists. Alexander Semin
has only one assist in the series.
Puck Drop --
"We've created chances. Even (Wednesday) night, we could have scored more goals," Cammalleri said. "I'd have liked to see us get more screens on the goaltender. I think that when goaltenders see pucks it makes it easier for them to read it coming off the stick, or where it might be going. If we can obstruct his view a little more, our shooting percentage and chance of scoring goals will go up."