A lot of attention and praise will go to Capitals goaltender Semyon Varlamov and Captain Alex Ovechkin after Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals Monday night. Varlamov, who got the nod after relieving Jose Theodore in the first period of Game 2 Saturday night, made 26 saves on 27 shots faced, and Ovechkin tallied for the second time in as many games after being held shotless in Game 1.
However, the guy that should receive the most praise is fourth line forward Boyd Gordon. After being a healthy scratch in Game 2, Gordon was reincerted in to the line up after Capitals Coach Bruce Boudurea decided to scratch usual fourth line center David Steckel.
The decision paid huge dividends.
Gordon scored a shorthanded goal at 1:06 of the second period to kick start a near 14 minute onslaught as the Capitals tallied four times in the period to propel themselves to a 5-1 win, and a two games to one series lead.
Gordon also won 13 of 15 faceoffs, but his key contribution was his first career playoff goal (in 23 games). With Tomas Fleischmann in the penalty box for hooking Montreal's Andrei Markov, Gordon skated in to the Canadiens zone on a 2 on 1 with Mike Knuble, and fired at shot that was stopped by Montreal goaltender Jaroslav Halak.
But, Halak let the rebound come back to Gordon, who put home the second chance and put the Capitals ahead 1-0.
After killing off the final 1:49 of the Canadiens power play, Brooks Laich potted his first goal of the playoffs on a wrist shot from the right circle at 4:42.
Washington was off and running.
Erich Fehr made it 3-0 3:49 later on a rebound of Laich's shot that chased Halak from net in favor of Carey Price.
That move would make no difference.
Just 5:17 later, Ovechkin scored the Capitals fourth and final goal of the period on a one time shot from Nick Backstrom from the middle of the right circle. Matt Bradley closed the scoring at 19:15 of the third period with an unassited tally that proceeded a Montreal offensive zone turnover.
Varlamov, though, was outstanding as well. Making his first playoff start since Game 7 of last year's Eastern Conference semifinal against the Pittsburgh Penguins, proved Boudreau correct. Boudreau, who said he was playing a hunch in his decision to start Varlamov, saw his netminder stop several early shots; a few from point blank range, that helped the Capitals withstand an early Montreal push.
After allowing a power play goal to Tomas Plekanec at 2:25 of the third, Varlamov was again solid stopping several quality shots as the Canadiens briefly fed off the momentum of Plekanec's tally, which allowed the Capitals to pick up their game again and cruise the final 10 minutes of the game. Varlamov, no doubt, earned himself another start in Game 4.
The Capitals fourth line of Bradley, Gordon, and Jason Chimera was outstanding the entire game. The trio recorded 2 goals, a plus-4 plus/minus rating and 12 shots on goal. Chimera was also effective in getting under the skin of the Canadiens forwards. Chimera goated Canadiens forward Brian Gionta into a cross checking penalty at 15:08 of the second and was clearly under the skin of Tomas Plekanec, who was assessed a four minute minor in the latter stages of the second period.
Washington again was held scoreless on the power play, this time failing on all seven chances. The Capitals are now zero for 14 on the power play through the first three games of this series, and zero for 21 if you count the teams' final two regular season games.
On the other hand, the Canadiens recorded a power play goal for the third straight game in this series, and combining the regular season have now scored at least one power play goal in all seven games against the Capitals this season.