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Once again, goaltending questions face Caps

- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 18, 2010

While Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said that goaltender Jose Theodore would have a longer leash than in 2009, it was just under eight minutes longer.

Last year, Theodore was pulled after Washington's loss in Game 1 against the Rangers and never regained his starting role for the remainder of the playoffs as young Semyon Varlamov shone in relief, helping the Caps reach the deciding game of the second round.

Saturday night, Theodore was pulled after yielding two goals on two shots, and the former Canadiens star now may be relegated to the bench when the series shifts north Monday night.

While Boudreau wouldn't commit to his Game 3 starter, he also didn't deliver a harsh rebuke of his netminder after the game either.

Boudreau said he felt Montreal's first goal a minute into the contest was a "knuckleball" and indicated that he made the switch to wake up the entire squad.

"It was more a deflating thing on the bench that I thought we needed the change," Boudreau said. "We'd expended an awful lot of energy in the first eight minutes of the game, and we were down 2-0, so I thought that might be: A. a lift from the crowd, and B. a lift on the bench. I don't know if it worked or it didn't work, but we ended up winning."

While it didn't pay immediate dividends, the Caps were able to rally from three goals down with Varlamov in net, as the young Russian netminder stopped 21 of 24 shots he faced.

With the pressure on Theodore heading into the series being a Montreal native and former star of the Habs, Varlamov said the veteran still offered him support after the switch.

"He approached me and offered some support," Varlamov said through an interpreter. "It is a difficult situation to step in during the first period, and he helped me a lot."

The young Russian also got some support from the team's captain, Alexander Ovechkin.

"I just told him to stop some pucks and we'll come back," Ovechkin said. "I thought Varly played great."

So, now, after pulling Theodore early in Game 2, the question for Boudreau is whether he sends him back out in front of a hostile crowd Monday night in Montreal -- which may be something that isn't answered until game time.

"I haven't really thought about who's playing Monday yet," Boudreau said.