Thanks to a series of injuries to goalies Jose Theodore and Brent Johnson, the Washington Capitals have had some rather unfamiliar faces suiting up the past two nights. On Friday, Ted Starkey told you the story of Brett Leonhardt, the Capitals web producer who had the opportunity to sit on the bench and serve as the backup goalie until Simeon Varlamov could make it to the arena, fresh off his callup from the minors.
On Saturday, it was Varlamov's moment to shine, as the 20-year old rookie turned aside 32 shots in his first NHL start, helping lead the Capitals to a 2-1 win in Montreal. The Canadiens peppered the former first-round pick with 27 shots over the final two periods, but he was up to the challenge, keeping the game tied at one until Michael Nylander scored his third goal of the season at the 17:28 mark of the third period, giving Washington the lead.
For a while, it looked as if the St. Louis Blues were going to do the unthinkable, and defeat San Jose at the Shark Tank. The Blues had a 3-1 lead late in the second period, only to have it erased by three San Jose goals in eight minutes.
David Backes managed to tie the game once again for the Blues, only to be quickly answered by Patrick Marleau with 5:03 to play in regulation, giving the Sharks yet another win. San Jose is now a league-best 24-3-2, and hasn't lost a game in regulation since November 9. The Sharks dominance at home is even more unbelievable, as they've yet to lose a home game in regulation, posting a 16-0-2 record.
Any team going into San Jose this season should go in with a simple theme: "We're gonna need a bigger boat."Thomas Vanek Will Not Be Stopped
Another night, another two-goal effort for Buffalo's Thomas Vanek. The Sabres used Vanek's 23rd and 24th goals of the season (he leads the league) to beat New Jersey, 4-2, in Newark. The 24-year old forward now has nine goals in his past 10 games -- including three two-goal efforts over that stretch -- extending his lead over Philadelphia's Jeff Carter in the goal-scoring race.
... Perhaps the Penguins should have saved some of those goals from Thursday and used them on Saturday, as they dropped a 6-3 decision in Philadelphia. This game was never close from the start. Only positive for Pittsburgh was the fact Evgeni Malkin picked up another assist. He's currently on pace for 98 helpers this year.
... Johan Franzen scored a pair of goals for Detroit, including the game-tying goal with under 20 seconds to play in the third period, as the Red Wings came from behind to defeat Phoenix, 5-4 in a shootout.
... Phil Kessel continued his white-hot play on Saturday, picking up his 19th goal of the season -- matching his career-high -- in the Bruins 4-2 win over Atlanta. Boston defeated the Thrashers each of the past two nights by a combined score of 11-5.
... The Lightning traded Alexandre Picard earlier this season in that monster of a deal for Andrej Meszaros, and thus far, it's been a complete steal for Ottawa. Picard helped to pour a little salt on the wound Saturday night, scoring what turned out to be the game-winning goal in a 2-0 Senators win. Martin Gerber stopped all 24 shots he faced in the win.
... Nashville's Dan Ellis was also perfect on the night, turning aside 27 shots in a 3-0 win over Dallas.
... Minnesota dropped its fourth in a row on Saturday, losing 3-1 against the Kings. The Wild have scored only three goals during their current losing streak.
... Fresh off their 9-2 thumping at the hands of Pittsburgh on Thursday, the Islanders lost for the eighth time in their past nine games, losing 3-1 in Columbus. Steve Mason turned aside 24 shots, leading the Blue Jackets.
Newsmakers in the NHL: Simeon Varlamov's Big Night originally appeared on NHL FanHouse on Sun, 14 Dec 2008 02:00:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.