First of all, this is becoming a trend in this year's playoffs. So far, of 5 series, only one team (Buffalo) has been expected to win and then won. For whatever reason, the top teams have needed a wake-up call this spring, and the Capitals are no different. They were much more ready for playoff hockey this year than they were last year against the Rangers, but they still had to play through games that meant nothing. It's no excuse, but it's also not easy to make such a sudden transition.
It was clear that the Caps were jacked up for this game. They completely dominated the first period with 19 shots on net. The problem was, they didn't have much to show for it as they went into the dressing room tied at 1. They didn't take advantage of opportunities, especially on the power play. They had been able to get away with that toward the end of the season, but you can't in the playoffs. Another big factor was that they hadn't seen Halak all season. You can watch all the tape you want, but until you play a goalie you can't get a feel for him. That is why Semyon Varlamov was so effective in the Rangers series and the beginning of the Pens series last spring, but then faltered in the later games. They hadn't seen him before, and Pens figured him out. Being that Halak has played more regular season games than Varlamov had, this one game should really help the Caps in learning his weaknesses.
The Capitals came out flying, but about mid way through the second period Montreal took over. The Caps were playing their game: fast, controlling the puck, keeping the play in Montreal's zone. Then the forwards decided they didn't need to play defense. The Caps' defensemen, in my opinion, were very good tonight, including Mike Green (sans the late delay of game penalty, of course). They were making plays, keeping shots down and players to the outside. The problem is, the forwards were waiting for the D to get them the puck, and when there are 5 people against 2, the puck is not going to be leaving the zone.
This is why the series are the best of 7. There is still no doubt in my mind that the Caps will come out of this round, possibly still in 5 games. It is a wake-up call, and this team responds really well to those. Tonight, the Habs got the game they wanted out of the Caps. The Caps don't like to lose. They aren't used to it, especially on home ice. And neither are their fans. Expect a storming, determined Caps team to take the ice on Saturday, lead by a captain trying to prove himself. That's a scary thought. The Habs know they've woken a sleeping giant not only in Ovechkin, but the entire team.
Game 1 is in the books. Remember, this is why they play the game, and expect the Caps to be playing more their game on Saturday night.