April 21, 2009
Of all the scenarios that could have resulted in the Caps going down 3-0 in this Eastern Conference quarterfinal, the most likely was the failure of Varlamov. After all, you don't just stroll into Madison Square Garden and steal a must-win road playoff game at age 20 with only five NHL regular season starts under your belt. Or maybe you do. Varlamov had plenty of help, from the Ryan Callahan scoring chance into a near-empty Washington net that caromed off the post and through the crease, only to become a Caps goal 15 seconds later on the other end, to the diving, sweeping stick check by Alexander Ovechkin on a Lauri Korpikoski breakaway. But Varlamov did his share of heavy lifting, too, stopping 33 shots in a 4-0 win over the Rangers to become the youngest player ever to record a playoff shutout on Broadway. He even survived Round 1 against super-pest Sean Avery. He'll bring a shutout streak approaching 120 minutes into Wednesday's Game 4.
Ryder's goal late in the second period, slammed home on a rebound of a Dennis Wideman shot, stood as the game-winner in Boston's 4-2 victory in Montreal on Monday. There's no shortage of revenge themes in this series, and you can score a Game 3 win for Ryder, who was a healthy scratch for the majority of Montreal's 12 playoff games a year ago. The winger, who insists he has "forgotten about last year," now has two goals and two assists in the series to help his new team establish a 3-0 stranglehold on this quarterfinal.
No. 3 star: Alexander Semin, Washington Capitals
With a rookie in net it was imperative for the Caps to take the MSG crowd out of the game early, and that's just what Semin, Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom teamed to do in Monday's Game 3. Semin scored twice in the opening period, the first off a pass from Backstrom and the second off a brilliant goal-mouth feed from Ovechkin, a goal that was doubly deflating in that in came mere seconds after the Rangers appear to have tied it 1-1. Semin capped the first three-point playoff game on his career with an assist on Brooks Laich's second-period power-play goal.
Major Penalty: The fact that the Rangers surrendered two power-play goals Monday only tells part of the penalty story from their Game 2 defeat. New York was 0-for-7 on the power play and saw four of those man-advantage chances end early due to penalties. Sean Avery took four minor penalties himself, two of which ended New York power plays prematurely. One look at John Tortorella's reaction to Avery's shove of Caps goalie Simeon Varlamov late in the third period tells you everything you need to know about the coach's opinion of those antics.
Minor Penalty: Varlamov was solid Monday, but let's not go confusing him for the league's elite just yet.
Conn Smythe Watch: (The Top 10) 1. Roberto Luongo, Canucks; 2. Jonas Hiller, Ducks; 3. Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers; 4 Evgeni Malkin, Penguins; 5. Phil Kessel, Bruins; 6. Chris Osgood, Red Wings; 7. Daniel Sedin, Canucks; 8. Zach Parise, Devils; 9. Alexander Ovechkin, Capitals; 10. Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks.