GAME 25 REVIEW: Varlamov Blanks Sabres 2-0

Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, November 26, 2009 | , , , | 0 comments »

Washington, DC -- Semyon Varlamov made the saves, Alex Ovechkin and Eric Fehr scored the goals, and the Caps' penalty killers put the clamps on in the third period, as the Washington Capitals shut out the Buffalo Sabres 2-0 before a capacity crowd at the house that Abe Pollin built, in the first hockey game since the Capitals' original owner passed away Tuesday.

The young goaltender made 25 saves for his first career regular season shut out, many in spectacular fashion, especially in the third period.

Varlamov needed to be on his game, as did the Caps penalty killers, in the final frame.  Their leader, Alex Ovechkin, drew a five minute boarding major, with the accompanying game misconduct that went along with it.

Ovechkin ran into Patrick Kaleta just 3:38 into the third period from behind, sending the Sabre into the boards face first.  The replay showed that Ovechkin hit Kaleta in the shoulder, but the hit was hard enough at full-speed to earn the call, much to the chagrin of the Verizon Center faithful.

"I just go take a hit and [Kaleta] just fell into the boards. ... Max, it's got to be 2 minutes," Ovechkin said.

"We just watched it a half a dozen times...Kaleta saw him coming," coach Bruce Boudreau explained after the game.  "It might have warranted a two minute minor, but I don't think it warranted anything more than that."

Regardless, Ovechkin would watch the rest of this one from the locker room.

The Caps killed the five minute major, and was given a brief reprise as Craig Rivet took a two-minute tripping penalty in the middle of it. 

"You lose the most prolific scorer on the planet Earth, which is tough," defenseman Brian Pothier said. "But you have to kill a five-minute penalty. As Ovie's skating off the ice, we're telling him, 'We've got this one for you.' He does so much for our team. Every night, he bails us out. We could sure do it for him."

They also killed a two-minute delay of game penalty on an especially lazy play by Mike Green behind his own net, as he lofted the puck off the ice.

Behind the killers, Varlamov was rock solid.  He was tight on the posts and even made a couple of nice glove saves as the time ticked away.

"Varly was solid," Boudreau said. "It was like he was saying, 'I'm not going to let this happen to me again in the third period.'"

Ovechkin opened the scoring in the first period, taking a puck between the Caps' circles, carried into the offensive zone, skated across the high slot, and flung a wrist shot past Sabres goalie Ryan Miler (22 saves).  It was his 17th of this campaign.

Eric Fehr got the insurance goal at 13:38 of the third.  Brendan Morrison won an offensive zone draw back to Mike Green, who slapped a pass to the end boards, where Morrison gained control.  The pivot then skated the puck behind the net and found Fehr standing on the doorstep, unmolested by Sabres defense. 

Fehr banged the puck past Miller for his fourth goal of the season.

But the 21-year old netminder was the biggest story of the game.  He is 4-0-2 in his last six games with a goals against under 1.50.  He seems to have wrested the mantel of No. 1 goalie from Jose Theodore, who was not playing at the top of his game even before his recent sabbatical.

Varlamov, through an interpreter, was succinct in his assessment of his performance, "I've gotten over being nervous."

Music to Caps fans' ears.