Washington Capitals rookie goalie Simeon Varlamov recorded 32 saves and the Caps got goals from Niklas Backstrom and Michael Nylander to defeat the Montreal Canadiens before 21,273 faithful at Bell Centre.

The Caps extend their record to 18-10-3-39, first in the Southeast Division. Montreal is second in the Northeast at 16-8-5-37.

Nylander's game winner came with just 3:32 left in the game when he banked a shot off Canadien netminder Jaroslav Halak's leg pad from behind the goal line. Nylander must have felt like the goalie owed him something after robbing him with an outstanding glove save earlier in the game.

Halak finished with 24 saves in the loss.

The win did not come without a cost, however, as Sergei Federov, Tyler Sloan and Backstrom all left the game early with injury or illness. Federov and Sloan's problems were undisclosed, but Backstrom was reportedly suffering from a migraine.

Federov had just returned last night to the team after missing several weeks with an ankle injury. Sloan has been playing for several games with a bruised heel.

Backstrom netted the Caps first goal of the game on the power play in the first period on feeds from Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin.

Patrice Brisebois had Montreal's lone tally against Varlamov, making his NHL debut tonight.

The game was very chippy and both teams had plenty of opportunities on the power play. The Canadiens went 0-for-8 with the extra man, including a four-minute advantage when Ovechkin received a double minor for high sticking after clipping Tom Kostopoulos in the face.

Washington is off until Tuesday night, when they travel to face the New York Islanders at 7:00 PM from Nassau Colosseum. The Islanders are last in the Atlantic Division with just 22 points and lost a 5-2 decision to the Caps in Washington on Dec. 4.

Photo by AP.

WAS: Backstrom (10) from Ovechkin and Semin (1-10:19-PP); Nylander (3) from Giroux and Kozlov (3-17:28)
MON: Brisebois (3) from Tanguay and Lang (2-15:25)

1. S. Varlamov - WAS (Saves: 32, Save Pct: .970)
2. M. Nylander - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)
3. J. Halak - MON (Saves: 24, Save Pct: .923)

Washington has won three in a row and five out of their last six. They are within three points for second in the Eastern Conference behind the New York Rangers.

Nylander's goal was his first in 26 games.

Backstrom's goal was his fifth in seven games.