- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 3, 2009

Simeon Varlamov followed one of the worst goals he’s allowed in his young NHL career with one of the best saves he’s ever going to make.

Varlamov stopped 34 shots and none were more important than his diving save on Sidney Crosby in the second period of a 3-2 victory Saturday in Game 1 of this Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins at Verizon Center.

Tomas Fleischmann broke a 2-2 tie 1:36 into the final period with his first goal since Game 1 of the previous series. Alexander Semin sent a slap pass to Nicklas Backstrom on the left wing, and he was able to feed Fleischmann near the right post past a diving Sergei Gonchar. Fleischmann chipped his shot off goalie Marc-Andre Fleury’s left shoulder and into the net.

Crosby netted the first goal of the series 4:09 into the opening period. He took a pass from Bill Guerin and cut between Brian Pothier and Alexander Semin before snapping a wrist shot past Varlamov.

David Steckel potted his first of the playoffs to even the score at 13:50. Matt Bradley sent the puck toward the net from a sharp angle along the right boards, and Steckel scored on the rebound as he crashed into Fleury.

Alex Ovechkin gave the Caps the lead after a sharp slap pass from Alexander Semin at 17:03 of the first. With Washington on a two-man advantage, Semin drew Fleury from his crease by winding up at the top of the offensive zone and then connected with Ovechkin in the left circle for a shot into a wide-open net. It was Ovechkin’s fourth marker of the playoffs.

Penguins defenseman Mark Eaton tied the score at two with a shot from the left point 12:54 into the middle period. It was a rare soft goal allowed by Varlamov, as it squeezed under his left arm.

The 21-year-old rookie made up for it moments later. Crosby had a sure goal when he tapped a pass from Chris Kunitz toward the net, but Varlamov was able to dive back and knock the puck away with his outstretched stick.

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