Varlamov takes on all comers. (Photo credit: Tom Gannam)
[Ed. note: Peter has a fever and is kind of loopy. Go easy on him.]
Tonight the Washington Capitals had their first chance to exact vengeance on Jaroslav Halak since he shut the Caps down in the playoffs. Now suiting up with the St. Louis Blues, Halak is the most foreboding embodiment of the Capitals’ postseason woes besides perhaps the Caps themselves. In an uneven effort, the Caps managed to exorcise- at least partially- those Halak-faced demons. But the big story was Semyon Varlamov, who padded his highlight reel with some improbable, firecracker saves.
Brooks Laich scored a PPG on the Caps second shot of the night, a high puck right up in Halak’s face. Boyd Gordon recorded his first tally of the year by Jedi-mind-tricking Halak to bobble the puck in himself for the second time this year. The Blues woke up with a screened spin-shot from Alexander Steen that Varly never saw coming. In the third period, Knuble and Backstrom swapped roles: near the paint, 19 converted the rebound off 22’s high-slot slapshot. In the final minute, with the Blues net abdicated, Alex Ovechkin gave Nick Backstrom the empty-net goal layup. Caps beat Blues 4-1.
Bullets for the Blues.
It wasn’t a perfect game by any means. The defensive effort was shambolic, but Varlamov brought out his best goalie work of the year to counteract it. Jaroslav Halak, the goaltender haunting so many Caps forwards’ nightmares, had a little more Mr. Magoo in him than we remembered. Does that mitigate the sense of relief in beating such a vaunted goalie? Not really, no.
Enjoy this first night of Hanukkah. Tomorrow night the Caps will do battle with the kinda-hot Dallas Stars. We’ll see you then.
Additional reporting by Neil Greenberg.
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