The Washington Capitals return to Verizon Center tonight with the hopes of closing out their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals matchup with the Montreal Canadiens tonight at 7:00 pm.
By virtue of a short-handed goal late in the second period in Game Four and a furious four-goal third period, the Caps hold a three games to one lead over the eighth seeded Canadiens.
This franchise has had some noted failures in series with big leads before, but that type of history lesson should be of no concern to this team.
This generation of Washington Capitals are built differently: the best player on the planet, a dynamic play-maker at his side, the enigmatic sniper, a Norris Trophy candidate, and an emerging stud defenseman with the nickname 'Captain America'.
The Canadiens looked ovewhelmed the other night. Carrying a 2-1 lead late into the second period and on a power play, the building was ready to erupt at the horn with the idea of Les Habitent equaling the series.
But beat-up Boyd Gordon and grizzled vet Mike Knuble--added to this team for this time of year specifically--combined for the short-handed goal that crushed the spirit of everyone associated with Le Blue, Blanc,et Rouge. That the Caps then dominated the third period came as no surprise.
This team can turn things on almost at will, and it's a shame that they don't play that way for three periods every night, because then we could actually witness something historic. For the last 20 games or so, they've been playing one period of terrific hockey per game, and it's been enough to carry the day on most occasions.
But I'm not complaining. They have also shown that they will turn their game up for quality competition (4-0 against Pittsburgh this season, anyone?).
They are even getting help from outside forces. The crippled Philadelphia Flyers managed to defeat disappointing New Jersey 3-0 last night, ensuring the Caps--should they advance--will face a team missing most of their leading scorers due to injury and a goaltender that would have a hard time making the roster in Hershey.
On top of that, Ottawa extended their series with the Penguins, beating the Pens in three overtimes last night, essentially forcing either team to play eight games in a seven game series.
The little things mean a lot in the playoffs.
Back to matters at hand.
Montreal will turn back to Jaroslav Halak in goal, after Carey Price was victimized--then lost his marbles--in Game Four. It's an unenviable task for the young goalie, having to come into Verizon Center down three games to one with the hopes of an entire province pinned squarely on his shoulders.
Good luck with that, kid.