The Montreal Canadiens summoned some inspiration from the rival Ottawa Senators on Friday.
Twenty-four hours after the Senators extended their opening-round series against the defending Stanley Cup-champion Pittsburgh Penguins to a sixth game at home, the Montreal Canadiens followed suit.
The Habs surprised the Washington Capitals with gutsy 2-1 victory at the Verizon Center to set up a Game 6 back in Montreal on Monday. It was the first win for the Canadiens since their overtime victory in the series opener in Washington, and they now trail 3-2 in the series.
Montreal head coach Jacques Martin deserves plenty of credit for the latest win by his team. Martin decided to go back to goalie Jaroslav Halak after using Carey Price in the last game. Halak was outstanding. His biggest stop in the third period to keep his club up by a goal was a blocker save on Washington’s Alexander Semin.
"It could have been our last game of the season so everybody started with a lot of energy and we scored two goals in the first," Halak said. "After that we were doing what we were supposed to."
Martin also promoted rugged left wing Travis Moen to the second line and dropped Benoit Pouliot into his spot on the third line. Moen was a factor with his relentless forecheck. He scored the goal that put Montreal ahead 2-0 in the first period while playing alongside Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta.
"Playing with that line, it's, for me, keeping it simple and getting them the puck," said Moen, who won a Stanley Cup with the 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks. "They’re so good with the puck. They’re good at finding guys. We had lots of chances. We played good offensively, but defensively we took care of our own end.
It was the Canadiens' most complete game of the series.
"That’s how we have to play to be successful," Moen said. "Obviously, that’s what we’re striving for. We’ve got to play a full 60 [minutes] and play games like that if we want to win this series."
Canadiens forward Mike Cammalleri scored his third of the series to open the scoring early in the first period. Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin poked in his fifth of the series in the second period.
But, unlike in Games 2 and 4, this time the Canadiens hung on for the important victory.
The Capitals have outscored Montreal 16-7 in the second and third periods so far in the series.
"I don’t think we played a near perfect game," Cammalleri said. "I think it’s a game of mistakes. I think [Halak] played very well and I think we capitalized on a couple of chances. I liked our hunger. I liked our desperation. It felt like we were going to make sure we were going home to play another one."
Montreal was once again without veteran defenceman Jaroslav Spacek, who the Canadiens say has the flu.
Yet the Habs continued to get it done on the penalty kill. The Capitals, who had the No. 1 power play in the regular season, went 0-for-5 and now are 1-for-24 in the series.
"We have to score on the power play," Ovechkin said. "We had lots of chances. Sasha [Semin] has to score in the middle when he has a chance, Flash [forward Tomas Fleischmann] had a chance. Our top guys have to score goals.
"Again, we want to win the game and we started the game really badly."