Washington Capitals golatender Semyon Varlamov stops Montreal Canadiens Mike Cammalleri during third period Game 3 NHL Eastern Conference quarter-finals hockey action Monday, April 19, 2010 in Montreal. Washington won 5-1 to take a two game to one lead in the series.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Who has the goaltending controversy now, eh?
Varlamov made some key early saves, allowing the Caps to survive a first-period onslaught by the Canadiens in front of their "crazy good" home fans, as Boudreau put it. The saves also gave the Caps' offense time to find their legs en route to a four-goal, second-period outburst that chased Habs' goalie Jaroslav Halak and a key 5-1 win to take back home-ice advantage.
Well played, Boudreau. There's a garden salad with your name on it.
The goaltending swap wasn't the only masterful move Boudreau pulled off before Game 3. He also shuffled lines 2, 3 and 4 to find some chemistry. Eric Belanger moved up to center Tomas Fleischmann and Alexander Semin in an effort to get Semin on the board. Meanwhile, Brooks Laich was dropped from the second line to the third to be paired with Brendan Morrison and Eric Fehr.
And who scored two of the Caps' four goals in the second period? Brooks Laich and Eric Fehr.
Can this Boudreau character do no wrong?
Apparently not on this night, at least.
A back-and-forth opening stanza saw Varlamov and Halak trade impressive save for impressive save. But when the horn sounded it was 0-0. And that's what the Caps' coach wanted.
"Our goal was get out of the first period even, and we did," he said. "So we felt good going into the second."
He felt even better after Washington opened the floodgates in the second. And it all started with the power play -- Montreal's power play, that is.
With the Caps down by a man, Boyd Gordon stunned the home crowd by pounding a puck past Halak to give the Caps the lead. Halak had little chance on the play, as defenseman Jaroslav Spacek slid derriere-first into his own netminder, knocking him out of position.
Laich made it 2-0 just over three minutes later. Fehr added to the lead about four minutes after that by going hard to the net and depositing a rebound past Halak, and Alex Ovechkin finished off the barage by firing a bullet past Price at the 13:50 mark of the second.
The Habs had kept Ovie at bay up until that point, but Montreal's defensive coverage broke down completely on the play. Hal Gill followed Mike Knuble into the corner to the left of Price. Knuble sent the puck to Nicklas Backstrom behind the net and Josh Gorges chased. One problem: no one bothered to pick up Ovechkin in the high slot.
Backstrom quickly dished the puck to the high slot, and Ovie snapped a laser past Price's glove before he had time to react.
Montreal scored a harmless goal in the third, but the outcome was already decided.
But now the Habs have some big decisions to make before Game 4 Wednesday night, just like the Caps did before Game 3.
Montreal's coaching staff will have to decide if Halak's confidence was shaken too much by that second-period attack to put him back between the pipes to face Ovie and Co. again.
For his part, Price played well and made the most of his opportunity in Game 3. He was calm and played his angles well. And hey, if the goaltending switch worked for Boudreau, why not give it a try, right?
Jacques Martin, like Boudreau, also has to find a way to light a fire under his forwards. The Habs' offense is pretty much non-existent outside of the top line of Cammalleri-Plekanec-Andrei Kostitsyn. Unfortunately for Martin, there aren't many options. He may just have to hope that Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta can find their legs again and use their speed to create chances.
If Montreal gets desperate enough, don't be surprised to see prospect P.K. Subban called up from the AHL to light a fire under the team. The offensive defenseman, however, is currently in his own playoff battle with the Hamilton Bulldogs against the Manitoba Moose.
But Bulldogs-Moose plays second fiddle to Habs-Caps, as far as Habs fans are concerned. So you may hear cries up north for P.K. soon enough.