Monday, April 20, 2009

Varlamov Answers For Caps

Capitals 4, Rangers 0
Scoresheet - Times - Post

Henirk Lundqvist shut the Capitals out at Verizon Center in front of the Capital faithful in Game 2. In Game 3, Simeon Varlamov answered right back in Madison Square Garden. Varlamov gets his first NHL playoff win with his first NHL playoff shut out. The Caps finally put a few past the Ranger netminder and put together a picture perfect road game to beat the Rangers in their house, 4-0.

Finally, the Capitals put the pressure on, being much more aggressive on the forecheck and getting their scoring back on track. Thanks to a pair of early goals by Alex Semin, the Caps seemed to gain momentum and the Rangers just got more and more frustrated as the game wore on. Brooks Laich cashed in his opportunity on the power play and Tom Poti added some insurance late on a pretty set up play by Nick Backstrom.

Alex Ovechkin tried to play head games with the Rangers when he sat through their warm ups earlier in the day. A team trainer asked him to leave. Ovechkin may have been playing games with the Rangers heads, but all the Rangers could see tonight was Varlamov making yet another save.

"He made some big saves -- no doubt about it, he played well," Ranger forward Brandon Dubinsky told reporters following the game.

But the first goal was all the Caps needed as Varlamov stopped every shot his way. He came up with some good saves throughout the game, but his best save was late when a broken play sent a puck to a wide open Nik Zherdev who tried to cut the puck back to the slot with Varly sliding in the other direction. But some how, some way Varlamov came up with the save. He was simply a magician tonight, coming up with saves that he just had no business saving. It clearly upset the Rangers.

Donald Brashear made a return to the line up. Caps' coach Bruce Boudreau put him in as a late addition and it added some grit and spark to the Caps. It did not take long before Brash mixed things up right on Lundqvist front mat taking on two Rangers at once. Brash seemed to create that spark that the Caps seemed to lack in Game 2. It also seemed to keep most of the Rangers honest. His presence made for a better Capital team.

The Rangers' agitator, Sean Avery, hurt more than he helped in Game 3. First he flat out punched John Erskine trying to get the big guy to drop the gloves, but Erskine didn't bite. Then in the third period, Avery tried to mix it up with Varlamov, as he tried to talk trash to a kid who knows very little English.

"(Avery) was just trying to stir it up, trying to do his job," Boudreau recalled the incident. "But he was doing it with a guy (Varlamov) who doesn't know what he's talking about."

Avery was sent to the sin bin three times before taking a cheap shot at Varlamov. The shot cost him 2 and 10 and he was shown the door. Erskine was nearby again and did an excellent job of not getting goaded into another dumb penalty.

The sad thing is for the Rangers, Avery had the most shots on net than any other (5), defenseman Micheal Rosival had the second most with four shots. The Caps did an excellent job keeping the Ranger snipers at bay. Scott Gomez, Markus Naslund and Nik Antripov were all held to 3 shots, and Varly stopped them all.

Ovechkin had two assists as he took a backseat in this game, passing rather than shooting. But Ovi would rather win the game than rack up the goals. Backstrom had the playmaker with three assists himself, including a play where he took out Ryan Callahan against the boards and getting the puck to a waiting Ovechkin who found Semin for the Caps' second goal. It is prime example of how the Caps did a better job of finding the open player and their early jump had the Rangers playing catch up.

This is the type of performance Capital fans have been waiting for. A team that look much like it did in December and January. The Caps played their best team game and Varlamov's shut out was the cherry on top. But they are not out of the woods just yet.

"It was an important game, but it's over," said Ovechkin. "It's done. It's history. And we have to battle next game."

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