Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Kid's Alright

Capitals 2, Canadiens 1
Scoresheet - Wash Post

Simeon Varlamov may have has a little bit of jet lag when he was told he was going to start against the Montreal Canadiens, at the Bell Centre. He had just jumped on a plane from San Antonio to join the team last night to back up Brent Johnson, then jumping on a plane for Montreal for the second of back to back games. Wearing an unpainted white mask, the young goaltender did not show that he was bleary from his travels. That is until the last seconds of the third period when he raised his head to the rafters and tried to catch his breath. He had just helped the Washington Capitals defeat the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 in Montreal. He was also the night's number one star. Not bad for your first NHL game.

Nick Backstrom scored just nine seconds into the Capitals' first power play and Micheal Nylander scored just his third goal of the year as the Caps squeaked out of Montreal with a rare road win. But it came at a price as Backstrom, Sergei Fedorov and Tyler Sloan all left the game early with injuries.

With the Capitals' offense smothered, Varlamov had to come up with some big saves. He must have added the goal posts to the pads he wore tonight because it seemed the only things the Canadiens were able to hit, Varlamov or the post. He came up with a fluery of saves late in the third period when the game was tied at 1-1. In all he stopped 32 shots. It wasn't long after that offensive onslaught that the Capitals got their lead off a Nylander chip at the net as he was falling down.

The whole Nylander, Viktor Kozlov and Alexandre Giroux line was pretty impressive tonight getting more than enough chances to score. Giroux was wide open in front of the net a few times but just couldn't bury the puck and Nylander himself was stopped after finding himself in the open. You just had the feeling that this line was due for a big goal and tonight, it happened. Nylander was actually falling away from the net when he just chipped it toward the net. The puck bounced off of Canadien goaltender Jaroslav Halak and into the net. The Caps bench exploded in relief as the late goal was scored by Nylander who has been struggling offensively of late.

The game was pretty physical and a little bit chippy. One thing was clear, the Canadiens and the Capitals are the best of friends. Alex Ovechkin played a good game with two big hits. He seemed to be in the middle of everything and had an assist on the Backstrom goal. He would have had another assist on a beautiful feed that sprung Alex Semin on a breakaway, but Semin couldn't bury the puck.

The Caps have now won three straight while holding their opponents to only one goal in each game. Not too shabby. Their power play has been solid during that stretch scoring 5 goals on thirteen chances. However, the Caps did take a few too many penalties. They gave the Canadiens 8 chances with the extra man, lucky for the Caps Varlamov and the penalty killers kept the Habs' power play in fits all night.

This is also the third game in a row that the number one star has been goaltenders for the Capitals. Johnny in the last two games earned first star honors while Varlamov had the honor tonight. The Caps finally get a day or two to rest before they play the Islanders on Long Island Tuesday.

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