With their season in the balance, the Montreal Canadiens will go back to goaltender Jaroslav Halak tonight when they face the Washington Capitals in Game 5 of their NHL Eastern Conference playoff series.
The game can be seen live on TSN and TSN HD starting at 7pm et/4pm pt.
Halak, who started the first three games of the series, sat in Game 4 in favour of goaltender Carey Price, who Price who allowed four goals on 36 shots – with the Capitals two other goals going into an empty net.
Price also logged four penalty minutes late in Game 4, as the netminder was twice whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct in the third period. Both penalties came directly after Washington goals.
Price shot the puck into a crowd of Capitals after Jason Chimera's goal made it 4-2 with 7:59 left and then hit Nicklas Backstrom while the Washington forward skated past the Montreal bench following his empty-net goal in the closing seconds.
The Canadiens, who looked to be in control of Game 4 before being dominated in the third period of Game 4, held a team meeting yesterday to try to figure out what they could do to stop Washington's offence.
Since losing the opener of this best-of-seven series in overtime, the Presidents' Trophy-winning Capitals have rattled off three straight wins. Washington has exploded for 17 goals over the last three games to grab the 3-1 series lead.
Washington is holding a 3-1 series lead for the first time since it ousted Buffalo in the 1998 Eastern Conference finals for the franchise's only trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Capitals are 2-6 all-time in Game 5s when leading three games to one in a series.
The Capitals have to like their chances in tonight's game after posting the NHL's best record at home during the regular season, going 30-6-5 in D.C.. The Canadiens were 19-17-5 on the road this year.
Montreal, meanwhile, needs to make a monumental comeback to win this series. The Canadiens have come back from a 3-1 series deficit in recent memory, winning the final three games against Boston in the 2004 conference quarterfinals. That was the only time the club was able to win a series after trailing 3-1.
The Canadiens, who were swept by Boston in last year's playoffs, have lost 10 of their last 11 postseason games, including six straight on home ice.
Alex Ovechkin scored twice and added an assist in Wednesday's 6-3 victory to help the Capitals move within a victory of the conference semifinals. Ovechkin has four goals and four assists in the series after going without a point or a shot in Game 1. Washington's captain has 15 goals and 25 points in his last 15 playoff games.
Backstrom had a goal and two assists and Mike Knuble scored twice. Semyon Varlamov, making his second straight start in place of Jose Theodore, stopped 36 shots. Varlamov will get the call again tonight for the Caps.
"I thought we had a lot of good shots and good looks," said Washington head coach Bruce Boudreau. "That was the start of our game coming back. They played real good in the second and the crowd was really into it. They blitzed us but we were able to weather the storm."
Dominic Moore, Michael Cammalleri and Brian Gionta each notched a goal for the Canadiens
"The game plan we had from the start has worked, but we've fallen asleep at times and that hurts us," said Gionta. "In every game we've played real strong, but at a certain point there is a breakdown and they score. So we have to regroup cause one more loss and it's over."
The Canadiens are expected to play tonight without defenseman Jaroslav Spacek, who is suffering from an unspecified illness.
The Habs and Caps have never faced each other in the postseason before this spring, but played a very tight season series this year. Each team won two games and only one of the four tilts was decided by more than one goal -- a 4-2 win by Washington on Jan. 5.
If necessary, Game 6 of this series will be played Monday in Montreal.