On a night in which the NHL's two-time reigning MVP didn't take a shot on goal, the Montreal Canadiens took advantage by upsetting the league's top-seeded team in overtime.
Tomas Plekanec scored 13:19 into the extra period Thursday as the eighth-seeded Canadiens beat the host Washington Capitals, 3-2, and — even more amazingly — turned Alex Ovechkin a non-factor.
Plekanec traded gibes this week with Washington goalie Jose Theodore, who ended up essentially saying that Plekanec was no Jaromir Jagr. Plekanec got the last word by taking the puck near the red line, skating into the offensive zone and scoring on a drive from high in the slot that beat Theodore to the stick side.
Mike Cammalleri scored for Montreal on a power play in the first period, and Scott Gomez tied it at 2-2 with 12:26 to play in regulation. Jaroslav Halak stopped 35 shots.
Joe Corvo had a first-period goal, and Nicklas Backstrom scored early in the third for the Capitals, whose top-rated power play went 0 for 4. Jose Theodore made 45 saves.
Game 2 of the Eastern Conference series is Saturday night in Washington.
Ovechkin scored 50 goals in the regular season and took an NHL-high 368 shots, but he said Thursday morning he might be "a little bit nervous and a little bit shaky" in his third go-round in the playoffs. Maybe that caused him and his teammates to use up all their energy in the first period — because the Capitals controlled the flow of play early, then looked exhausted as the game wore on.
It didn't help that Ovechkin was shadowed most everywhere he went by defenseman Jaroslav Spacek. Ovechkin had five shot attempts blocked. The Capitals played at their preferred up-and-down pace for a little more than a period — and the Canadians controlled the rest of the game.
The Capitals had their best season in franchise history and won the Presidents' Trophy for the first time, while the Canadiens didn't secure a playoff berth until the next-to-last day. Washington had 313 goals, the most by a team since 1995-96. It also led the NHL with 213 five-on-five goals, while Montreal was last with 132.
Buffalo 2, Boston 1: Ryan Miller made 38 saves to lead the host Sabres over the Bruins in an Eastern Conference opener.
Captain Craig Rivet scored the go-ahead goal with a slap shot from the right circle with six minutes left in the second period, and Thomas Vanek also scored in Buffalo's first playoff game in three years. Miller stopped 23 shots in the second period, in building on a stellar season in which he won a franchise-best 41 games and backstopped the United States to a silver medal at the Vancouver Olympics.
Mark Recchi scored for the Bruins, who finished the regular season on an 8-3-1 roll to finish sixth in the East.
It was a game of shifting momentum, with the Sabres controlling the tempo and buzzing the net through most of the first period. Buffalo was rewarded by opening the scoring 4:52 in when Vanek snapped in Derek Roy's drop pass on a two-on-one rush.
The Bruins responded with a thoroughly dominating second period, in which they outshot Buffalo 20-6 through the first 14 minutes and 24-8 overall. The 24 shots allowed by the Sabres matched a franchise playoff record, dating to a 3-2 win at Chicago in April 1980.