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Washington Capitals' Alex Ovechkin (L) looks at Montreal Canadiens' Andrei Kostitsyn before a faceoff during Game 2 of their NHL Eastern Conference quarter-final series hockey game in Washington April 17, 2010. REUTERS/Molly Riley (MOLLY RILEY)
Washington Capitals' Alex Ovechkin (L) looks at Montreal Canadiens' Andrei Kostitsyn before a faceoff during Game 2 of their NHL Eastern Conference quarter-final series hockey game in Washington April 17, 2010. REUTERS/Molly Riley (MOLLY RILEY)

Monday NHL Playoff Preview

Pressure shifts from Caps to Habs Add to ...

It is, of course, ridiculously premature to pronounce the Montreal Canadiens dead and buried - so let's just say the prognosis is troubling.



One wonders if the Canadiens haven't blown their best opportunity to seize their opening-round playoff series by the scruff of the neck and cement any lingering insecurities that afflict the Washington Capitals.

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Instead, after Saturday's come-from-behind 6-5 overtime win, there is no longer any apprehensiveness or nervous tension in the Caps' fold - both of which were in ample supply last week after Montreal took Game 1.



A smiling and relaxed AlexOvechkin even indulged in a little gamesmanship ahead of tonight's third game at the Bell Centre, claiming yesterday that Montreal goaltender Jaroslav Halak was visibly rattled when Washington scored its first goal on the weekend.



"I watched the replay when [forward Eric Fehr]scored the goal, and his arm was shaking when he drink water. He's nervous, he knows all the pressure is on him, it's a good sign for us," said Ovechkin.



Halak didn't deign to respond (a team spokesman said "he doesn't want to get into a war of words") but centre Scott Gomez did.



"Whatever," he said. "Next."



The party line is the Canadiens went to Washington seeking a split, but 2-0 is a drastically different proposition than 1-1.



"They think they've got their whole game right back and they feel great about themselves. We feel good about ourselves as well and it should lead to a nice Game 3 here," said Montreal winger Michael Cammalleri, who has four points in two games.



If the Habs do indeed go down to defeat, they may well point to 17:34 of the second period in game two as the instant it all went pear-shaped.



With Montreal leading 4-1, Backstrom struck.



Hulking winger Mike Knuble slyly nudged defenceman Jaroslav Spacek into Halak, limiting his ability to slide and parry Backstrom's goal-bound shot.



"I think that 4-2 goal was a tough one for us to take … if we go in up three goals, it's a little bit of a different story," said Cammalleri.



Several players insisted the Habs are not dwelling on the setback; should the Canadiens somehow recover it will be because of shifts like one Brian Gionta enjoyed Saturday.



After intercepting a pass in his own zone, Gionta sped up the ice and dinked a clear-in past a defenceman and off the boards for Benoit Pouliot to chase.



Pouliot fell, but Gionta suddenly materialized to bump the much larger Brooks Laich off the puck, got a shot off, blocked a clearing attempt, fired another shot, then skated to the bench.



Montreal coach Jacques Martin will be looking for that kind of determination in Game 3, and said, "We have to learn from our mistakes."



And they'll also need virtuoso goaltending.



Halak stopped 66 of the first 70 shots the Capitals fired at him in the first two games of the series (.942 save percentage) but gave up four goals on the next 14 (.714) - though Martin didn't announce his starter, it's expected to be Halak.

Follow on Twitter: @MrSeanGordon

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