It was their best 39 minutes and 53 seconds of the year. For what it’s worth.
The beginning of the end came when Montreal allowed a devastating, frustrating, mind-boggling shorthanded goal with seven seconds left in the second period with the Habs leading 2-1 at the time and playing their finest game of the year. Seven seconds. Seven lousy, stinking seconds.
I hate shorthanded goals against the Habs more than anything else in hockey. I hate shorthanded goals that tie games. I hate them when things are going so well up until then. And I hate them when there’s just seconds left.
That goal, by Mike Knuble, loaded the gun. And the trigger was pulled in the third.
A 6-3 disaster on home ice, and the end is near.
Should we blame Roman Hamrlik for allowing the Capitals to pull away with a two-man rush with time winding down when the Habs were dominating and on the power play? I’m just going to come out and say yes. That goal killed them, sucked the soul out of them, and gave Washington extra juices that were almost as good as steroids.
With only seconds left until the end of the period, conservatism is the key word.
Theoren Fleury, on TSN’s Off The Record a few months ago, was asked how he would describe Roman Hamrlik. “A gutless puke,” replied Fleury, as obviously something had happened in the past which I have no idea of because I haven’t read Fleury’s book. And although “gutless” doesn’t describe Hamrlik tonight, maybe “game-killing decision on the ice” might.
For more than 50 years I’ve agonized and suffered deeply when the Canadiens lose a big playoff game. Even when they were the class of the league I could never stomach it. It ruins my day, and the next. And tonight, especially with the shorthanded goal, this loss ranks right up with any of them.