Two losses later, the Habs needed another dramatic rally in Game 4 at the Bell Centre in order to stay in this series. All of Montreal held its breath as the team launched a good attack through 40 minutes - but then it all began to fall apart.
Canadiens goalie Carey Price, who entered the game with a worrisome 3.14 goals-against average in playoff play, gave a great performance but eventually fell to Alex Ovechkin and bad bounces. Through most of the game, Washington looked the weaker team‚ but somehow the Caps were allowed to score four goals plus two empty-netters to take the 6-3 decision and all but kill the prospect of a Cup run for the Habs.
The first two periods were a pleasure to watch. The Canadiens had the jump, controlling the puck well, outshooting their opponents 21-14, earning more scoring chances but running into a wall in Semyon Varlamov, a tested playoff goalie who dispelled any doubt that he deserved the start over Jose Theodore.
The Caps, meanwhile, looked shaky at both ends, having trouble clearing the puck and failing to set up an effective attack on Price. Still, Washington opened the scoring on the power play at 11:50 of the first period with a laser by Ovechkin.
Montreal replied a minute later when Mike Cammalleri banged in a rebound in front of the Caps goal, then took the lead with a power-play goal in the second period., when Brian Gionta slammed in Andrei Markov's shot from the blue-line that ricocheted off the boards behind the net.
The Canadiens had the momentum until six seconds before the buzzer to end the second, when the Capitals scored a short-handed momentum-changer - a lovely goal. With two Montreal players trying to catch up, Boyd Gordon floated a gorgeous little saucer pass to Mike Knuble who redirected it past Price to even the score.
Heading into the third period, it was the Canadiens who had something to lose, and they showed it. They came out playing hard-driving hockey that, with better luck, might have earned them a victory, but instead led to their undoing. The Caps played just as hard and fast but with better composure, and finally took the lead with at 8:51 on a somewhat fluky play. With Alexander Semin streaking down the left wing, a Habs defender poke-checked the puck off his stick, knocking it straight onto the tape of the best sniper in the league, Ovechkin, who wristed it hard past Price at the nine-minute mark. Talk about a letdown.
Montreal coach Jacques Martin pulled Price with about 2:30 remaining, and the Capitals potted one on the empty net to widen the gap to 5-2.
Dominic Moore played Johnny-come-lately with an end-to-end rush that resulted in the Canadiens' third goal at 18:42, but the Caps would reply with another empty-netter a minute later to end the scoring at 6-3.
It was a three-point night for both Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, who had a hand in both empty-netters.
It will be very hard for the Habs to bounce back from their 3-1 deficit against No. 1-seeded Washington, but they'll give it a shot in Game 5 on Friday night in D.C.