Washington Capitals forward Alexander Semin and goalie Simeon Varlamov were both difference-makers against the New York Rangers in Game 3. Semin had two first-period goals in the Capitals' 4-0 win, and Varlamov had 33 saves and the shutout.
The critical Game 4 of this series is tonight at MSG. I spoke with Semin and Varlamov after Game 3 about getting the Capitals back into this series, and what to expect from the Rangers tonight.
First, Alexander Semin on how Washington was able to solve the Rangers:
Q. Congratulations on your victory. The Capitals didn't look themselves [in Game 3].
SEMIN: Why didn't we look ourselves?
Because during the last month or so the team didn't play as well as expected and there was some kind of lack of chemistry.
You and Backstrom are playing really well together. It was noticeable during the final games of the regular season, when you were playing together. Is he the most effective center for you?
I don't know, but I really like playing with him. He plays really well, passes well. It's just a pleasure playing with him.
What was your motivation like for Game 3? As if it was the last battle?
We actually had no other choice but to win. We came out and played as a team. If we had lost that game, it would have been really difficult to pull back. But we just started playing our game, the game that we can play so well, the game we were showing during the regular season. And it turned out great for us.
Were you upset a bit that you didn't score a hat-trick?
I didn't even think about it. Winning the game was the most important thing. We won, and that's what matters. Although I did have my chances to score [the third], but it just didn't happen.
Varlamov played really well.
Oh, gosh, yes, he is really great.
He only gave up one goal in the last game. Do you feel confident playing in front of a goalie like him?
Any team that has a good goalie playing for them, a goalie that you can rely on... I am saying it in general, and not just about Varlamov... Of course you can feel the support.
And you as a team didn't leave him hanging. You back-checked really well.
As I have mentioned, we just played our game. And everything was happening for us. We were doing everything we know really well as a team.
Do you think this was the turning point of the series?
Let's not guess anything. We just have to come out and play the way we played tonight. And then I think everything will be alright.
By no means, I don't want to say that the Rangers are a weak opponent. But it looked like the Capitals were battling themselves in the first two games. You can beat the Rangers. But couldn't do so in Games 1 and 2 because something wasn't working inside the team, and not because the Rangers outplayed you.
Maybe this was the case. I cannot really pinpoint what the problem was. We lost the first two games, and everyone just stopped to think. We came out tonight and played for each other, as a team. And nothing else matters.
Anger management is not working so well for Sean Avery. Or so it seems, after he sucker-punched Simeon Varlamov during Monday's game between the New York Rangers and the Washington Capitals at MSG in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
I bet that Avery was trying to send a message for the upcoming Game 4 between the Eastern conference rivals coming up on Wednesday. But didn't he get the memo?
"We held a conference call Monday with the general managers and coaches of playoff teams and told them explicitly we would not tolerate attempts by clubs to 'send a message' late in a game when the outcome had been determined," said Colin Campbell, the NHL's Senior Executive V.P. of Hockey Operations. "Organizations, players and coaches will be held accountable for such actions."
If Avery actually tried to send a message, what would that be? That he can waste his energy speaking Greek to the Russian netminder? That he can easily take four minor penalties in a game?
As for Varlamov, I asked him about the incident:
Q. Tell us about the episode with Avery.
VARLAMOV: Well, everyone knows that he skates around trying to get everyone fired up. And I know about it. We talked about it at the team meetings as well. That's why I do not pay attention to such incidents. Yes, I know and actually saw how he was swinging his stick in front of Brodeur. I am ready for his provocations.
It appeared that you hit him with your stick when he fell on you.
No, I just touched him a little bit. And that's it. But he reacted with a lot of emotion. He started yelling something. Of course, I didn't understand half of it. And then, when the incident appeared to be over, he skated to me and hit me in the face.
What exactly did he tell you?
Well, I don't want to tell the media what he said. But he said some unflattering things.
And then he hit you and it appeared that it even moved your helmet a bit.
Yes, it did. He hit me with some force.
It looked like he hit you really hard.
It was a good [punch]. It didn't feel nice. But there's nothing serious. A game is a game.
And you didn't react at all!
No. Why should I react? My main objective is to catch pucks and concentrate on my own game and not to notice what he does.
After the game you let out a "Woo."
All the guys came to congratulate me. To be honest with you it felt really good. The whole team congratulated me. They even took the puck from tonight's shutout. Now I will get a nice frame and keep it in my house.
Did you get a pie in the face after the game?
No, there was nothing after the game. The guys left a lot of emotions out there on the ice. No one even thought about it. But there was a lot of media in the locker room after the game asking a lot of questions.
Of course, you're the first star of the game.
Eh, really?! Wow, that's great! I didn't even know.
Does it give you even more confidence now that the Capitals are faced with a decision of whether to re-sign Johnson?
I get a lot of experience from these kinds of games; it gives me more "visibility." But experience is tremendous, simply because there is a lot of pressure. I am playing in the NHL where the best players in the world play. Where else would I get this kind of experience other than here?
What did the coach tell you after the game?
He said 'Good job.' Nothing else. But what else can he say? The whole team played really well. We won tonight. And that's the most important thing.
We will probably see you on Wednesday again now.
Maybe. I don't know. I will probably be told either tomorrow or the day after during the morning skate. Am I ready? Of course I am ready. And if I am selected to play, I will try to show a good game.