WASHINGTON -- The Washington Capitals are going to have to get back to fundamentals in their too-long-by-half first-round playoff series: shooting ... skating ... counting.
In a genuine Sesame Street moment,
The too-many-men penalty, one of a glut in the 2010 playoffs, essentially nailed down a 2-1 victory for the Montreal Canadiens in Game 5 of their quarterfinal series.
Montreal still trails the series. But if the Canadiens somehow manage to pull it out -- and no No. 8 seed has beaten a No. 1 after losing three of the first four games since the NHL adopted the current playoff format -- Varlamov's too-man-men penalty will go down in Canadiens lore one step below the Boston Bruins' too-many-men call late in Game 7 of the 1979 Stanley Cup semifinals that, not to put too fine a point on it, allowed Montreal to win its fourth straight Stanley Cup that long-ago spring.
The coaches invariably take the blame for these sort of screw-ups --
So score one for the Canadiens and
But, despite the howls in Montreal about his coaching style -- the radio chat shows have been absolutely pillorying him -- he is not exactly a neophyte in the business. Game 5 was his 90th in the playoffs. While the oops nature of hockey can be beyond the game-planning of any coach, credit Martin with making a superb line adjustment.
Instead of the floating
Washington, however, has a better-known weapon,
Halak, however, was bulletproof in the third period during a power play, making a superb blocker save on the snake-bitten
Maybe six weeks from now when the Capitals have won the Cup, they will look back at Varlamov's gaffe and have a good chuckle. Maybe they will chip in and buy him an abacus and give it to him at the after-season party. All champions must face some adversity; the ones that win the Stanley Cup teeter but never topple. You can count on one hand the ... ah, never mind.