The Washington Capitals surge continued, this time led by a different sort of Russian duo, Victor Kozlov and 20 year old goalie Simeon Varlamov.
Varlamov, making his second career NHL start, was again dazzling. If Bruce Boudreau truly wanted to see if his stellar performance last week against Montreal was a fluke (which we know better), he got his answer last night. Varlamov stopped 29 of 31 shots to earn his second consecutive win in just his second NHL game. What strikes me is the composure and judgment the kids shows in net. The type of character Varlamov is proving to be is stuff you simply can't teach. You either have it, or you don't. Varlamov has it.
He doesn't get flustered, he doesn't back down, and he is nimble and quick. There were a few bursts by the St. Louis offense where Varlamov got pounded in the net, but he stood strong, composed, and made some brilliant saves. If these first two games are any indication of what the Capitals are getting in Varlamov, the goal tending is in great hands for years to come.
Meanwhile, the other Russian, Victor Kozlov, led the capitals offense with 2 goals and an assist for a three point night. Kozlov scored the only goal of the first period, putting a nasty shot above the shoulder of young, tall Goalie Ben Bishop. The goal was assisted by Nicklas Backstrom.
St. Louis tied it up half way through the second on David Backes' ninth goal of the season. But, the Capitals would strike back, twice, about 8 minutes later. First one came on a dink put in from a rebound on a Boyd Gordon's drive to the net. Kozlov plucked the rebound past Bishop for his second goal of the night and a 2-1 Caps lead. Forty seconds later, on just bad, bad St. Louis defense, Tomas Fleischmann was wide open in the middle of the net, right in front of Bishop and took a pass from Boyd Gordon and put a wrister right past Bishop. It was Flash's 11 goal of the year. St. Louis will look back at that and realize how real bad the defense shifted leaving Flash right in front of the net, Bishop with no protection whatsosever.
Alexander Ovechkin put the Capitals up 4-1 on another real poor play by St. Louis on the power play. How you leave Ovechkin unattended like that is beyond me. Bishop never had a chance and he knew it. Ovie scores on way too many goalies with that nasty wrister when he is open. Bishop likely knew when he was doomed when he saw the pass go to an open Ovechkin. And he was. It was number 20 on the season for Great 8.
From there, the game took a nasty turn as tempers flared after Alexander Semin was hook (though not called) and then second later cross checked right in the back, going down in obvious back pain (again no call). What is strikingly odd is how the Referees missed BOTH calls. How is that possible? It was so damn obvious. It didn't take long for Alexander Ovechkin to go after Barrett Jackman after his Semin cross check. From there on, tempers simmered and the Caps were eventually called on a bogus unsportsman like conduct penalty that led to the Blues second goal. But, at the end, the Blues went home losers of five straight, while the Caps packed it winners of five straight.
Imagine if the Caps were not having a great season? Look at the Washington Redskins. Look at the Washington Wizards. Look at the packed house at the Verizon Center last night. Listen to that loud crowd. Let's face it, all Washington DC has right now are these gusty Capitals. IN essence, pro sports wise, these Washington Capitals are the toast of the town! Remember the argument that Washington, DC was a one sport town? Don't buy it for a minute, because that one sport, the Redskins, are looking pretty sad and there is simply NO light at the end of that tunnel.
As for the Caps, as good as they are right now, the future looks even brighter. Just ask guys like Karl Alzner and Simeon Varlamov, at the young ages of just 20, and a Hershey Bears minor league team sitting at 20-7. DC --- The Caps are the DC!
Caps improved to 20-10-3 with an 8 point lead over Carolina for the Southeast Division lead and sit 3 points from the NY Rangers, second overall in the Eastern Conference, and 5 points away from the Boston Bruins for top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Victor Kozlov, 2 goals, 1 assist
DCPSR Player of the Game:
Victor Kozlov, 2 goals, 1 assist
Saturday DEC 20 at Philadelphia
* Mike Green left the game early last night. he apparently re-aggravated his shoulder injury that caused him to miss 11 games. No word on how much the aggravation was or if he will miss any games.
* No word as of yet on Alexander Semin's status. That was a nasty cross check to the lower back and Semin was in some obvious pain. We'll update that as soon as we know.
* How about that game from Boyd Gordon last night? Gordo played a pretty good game from start to finsih and is increasingly showing the willingness to take it right to the net.
* Caps have now won 5 straight and 7 of their last 8. They are now 7-2 in the month of December.
* Nicklas Backstrom had an assist on the first goal of tghe game, feeeding Victor Kozlov. That assist jumped Backstrom to the team lead, with 24 assists. Ovie has 23.