Habs not about to roll over for Caps

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Ovechkin doesn't have a shot in Game 1 loss; Sabres edge Bruins

Anyone who wrote off the Montreal Canadiens off in their NHL Eastern Conference quarter-final series against the Washington Capitals is guilty of premature resignation.

A goal by Tomas Plekanec at 13:19 of overtime gave the Canadiens a surprise 3-2 victory over the Capitals Thursday night and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 2 is Saturday in Washington.

Washington Capitals' defenceman Shaone Morrison (left) gets tangled with Montreal Canadiens' forward Mathieu Darche (52) during Game 1 of their NHL playoff series Thursday night in Washington. The Canadiens, the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, defe

Anyone who wrote off the Montreal Canadiens off in their NHL Eastern Conference quarter-final series against the Washington Capitals is guilty of premature resignation.

A goal by Tomas Plekanec at 13:19 of overtime gave the Canadiens a surprise 3-2 victory over the Capitals Thursday night and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 2 is Saturday in Washington.

The victory snapped the Canadiens' eight-game playoff losing streak, which dated back to April 24, 2008.

The Canadiens showed the same determination that marked their play in the regular-season series against the Capitals, and Plekanec's goal brought a dramatic end to a classic playoff game highlighted by a goaltending duel between Halak and former Canadien Jose Theodore.

Regulation time ended with the Capitals enjoying a 41-28 edge in shots and the biggest surprise was that Capitals' centre and superstar Alexander Ovechkin was a non-factor, failing to register a single shot on goal for only the second time this season, and getting undressed on the Canadiens tying goal in the third period.

The other surprise was that the Canadiens were winning the battle of special teams. They scored once on their first three opportunities, while the Capitals went 0-for-4 - despite firing 11 shots on goal.

The Canadiens' failure to clear the puck gave the Capitals a chance to take a 2-1 lead at the 47-second mark of the third period. Nicklas Backstrom had a clear shot at Halak after taking a drop pass from Mike Knuble.

But the Canadiens got that back at 7:34 when Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta combined on a give-and-go. Gomez gave the puck to Gionta and circled around the back door to convert a perfect cross-ice pass.

Halak, who made 45 saves, made one of his best stops midway through the third period when he stopped Brooks Laich and then scrambled to keep the rebound away from Alexander Semin.

Sabres 2 Bruins 1

At Buffalo, N.Y., Ryan Miller wanted to be boring. He wanted to be bland. He wanted to be so unexciting that fans would be leaving their seats to go home and watch paint dry.

This was not about landing on the highlight reel, he said. This was about the Sabres. And just as long as he stopped the puck and his team won, nothing else seemed to matter.

"Some guys try to overdo some things," Miller said. "But I don't want to overplay it or do anything out of my element. I just want to read my plays and be very boring. The more boring I can be, the better."

It is hard to imagine that stopping 38 shots in a 2-1 win would be described as dull. But you had to be a goaltending instructor to find something beautiful in Miller's workmanlike performance against Boston

It looked so easy from where the fans were sitting. The Bruins' would take a shot and the puck would bounce harmlessly off Miller's chest. On and on it went.

"He's a rock," said Sabres forward Thomas Vanek, who scored one of Buffalo's goals. "I'm just used to it. I've been with him so long."

Heading into the series, it was assumed that the goaltenders would take centre stage.

Tuukka Rask and Miller had been the best in the league during the regular season. Rask had a league-low 1.97 goals-against average and .931 save percentage in 45 games. Miller was second with a 2.22 goals-against average and .929 save percentage.

The feeling was that if goals came, they would be few and far between.

"I think every game we played against them have been 30-plus shots," said Rask, who made 32 saves. "I guess we need another 30 shots against them to score."

There was just one goal in the first period. But the opening 20 minutes, which featured 17 shots, was anything but boring. Zdeno Chara nearly sparked a line brawl when he rammed Patrik Kaleta towards the boards from behind. And both teams racked up 22 hits and 26 minutes in penalties to kick off what promises to be a fast and physical series.

"This is playoff hockey," Bruins head coach Claude Julien said. "So the guys are going to give everything they've got . . . but whether you lose 10-2 or 2-1, it's still a loss."

Note: The result of Thursday's Game 1 of the first-round playoff series between the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings was unavailable at The Telegram's press deadline

Organizations: Montreal Canadiens, Washington Capitals, NHL Miller's Vancouver Canucks Los Angeles Kings

Geographic location: Buffalo, N.Y., Boston, Buffalo

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