Semyon Varlamov stopped 25 shots in last night's 3-0 victory over Montreal, and while he was more steady than spectacular, he has won two in a row, which leaves Coach Bruce Boudreau with an even more difficult decision as to which goalie will be in net for Saturday's much-anticipated game against Pittsburgh in the Winter Classic.
Varlamov started and finished strong for his second shutout of the season. Early in the first period, he stopped several bids from close range, and late in the third when the Canadiens pulled goalie Carey Price for an extra skater, he denied Lars Eller twice from almost point blank.
Varlamov "played outstanding," said defenseman Mike Green, who scored with 37 seconds left in the first period for a 2-0 lead. "He deserved the first star. There were shots that we couldn't block, and he was playing aggressive to make sure he made the save. When he plays like that, he's an outstanding goaltender."
The shutout comes on the heels of of Washington's 3-2 road win against Carolina the day after Christmas. Varlamov stopped 33 of 35 shots in that game, and his past two performances have been a far cry from his low point this season when he gave up seven goals on 20 shots in a 7-0 loss to the New York Rangers on Dec. 12.
Following the loss to the Rangers, Michal Neuvirth, Washington's other young goalie, played in four of the next five games, going 2-1-1, and he has stopped 84 of his last 89 shots for a .944 save percentage.
Varlamov has been even better of late, with a .967 save percentage in his last two games. Boudreau, however, was not about to tip his hand as to who will get the nod in perhaps the team's most significant game of the regular season to date, given the national media attention and the fact it's against the Capitals' most bitter rival.
"Let me think about that one," Boudreau said, eliciting laughter throughout the room. "I won't give that away. They've both been really good."