Capitals-Penguins: Simeon Varlamov Makes Save of the Year

Cyrus I.Correspondent IMay 3, 2009

WASHINGTON - MAY 02:  Simeon Varlamov #40 of the Washington Capitals stops a shot on goal by Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinal Round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 2, 2009 at the Verizon Center in Washington,  DC.  (Photo by Len Redkoles/Getty Images)

The Washington Capitals' mysterious goaltender Simeon Varlamov has adjusted smoothly to the high-octane play of the NHL playoffs.

The rookie has administered two shutouts in seven games played so far, and has made 181 saves up to this point.

But none were more spectactular than his desperation attempt on Saturday against highly-regarded Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The headline for Saturday's NHL second round showdown on NBC between Washington and Pittsburgh featured star players Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, quite possibly the two most feared players with the puck in the entire league.

Too bad Simeon Varlamov stole the show instead.

The Capitals hung on for the win 3-2, and it was mainly because of the effort Varlamov gave against the Penguins' best players in Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

With the score tied 2-2 late in the second period, Varlamov made sure the game stayed knotted by diving back and using the heel of his stick to prevent a shot by Crosby from passing the goal line as Crosby raised his arm to celebrate.

The best part of it all? Probably the fact that the save was produced by a 21-year old rookie who wasn't even in the NHL two months ago.

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Here's what the unruffled Varlamov had to say about the unlikely save:  

"There was no other option left to me. I had to play it with my stick. If he put the puck anywhere else, it would have been in the net. So I guess it was lucky."

Varlamov probably owed head coach Bruce Boudreau and his teammates that save, considering the fact that five minutes before the save, he allowed a goal by Pittsburgh's scoring defenseman Mark Eaton even Varlamov described as soft.

The strike by Eaton was from 60 feet away and had gone right by Varlamov to even up the score at 2-2.

Signs of maturation from the rookie, however: he never lost his composure after that goal, as relayed by Capitals forward Brooks Laich. Varlamov stopped the next 14 shots he faced, including the soon-to-be Youtube sensation save against Crosby.

Finally, Crosby added: "I didn't get a lot on it. I just tried to direct it into the net. He kind of made a desperation save. You end up losing the game, 3-2, and you don't want to say, 'What if?' "

The question "What if?" will be uttered by many of the Pittburgh players if Simeon Varlamov continues to make plays like that throughout this second-round playoff series.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwtNoIIWCLk