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Varlamov blanks Rangers as Caps get back in series

(AP) — Behind 33 saves and the first career NHL shutout from 20-year-old Simeon Varlamov, the Washington Capitals cut their series deficit to 2-1 — after a pair of home losses — with a 4-0 win over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Monday night.

Despite playing only six career NHL games, Varlamov made a surprise start in Game 2, after Jose Theodore was ineffective in the opener. He was the hard-luck loser in New York’s 1-0 victory, but showed enough to earn the nod again.

Varlamov, 4-0-1 in the regular season for Washington, made coach Bruce Boudreau’s decision look brilliant with the help of Washington’s potent attack.

"It was a tremendous atmosphere here, but let’s not forget, even though he’s only 20 years old he’s played in the finals of the Russian Elite League," Boudreau said. "The pressure is probably just as much there. And then he’s played in the World Championships … and the fact he doesn’t understand a word we’re saying probably helps him."

The Capitals’ first-round pick (23rd overall) in the 2006 NHL draft, Varlamov spent most of the regular season with the AHL’s Hershey Bears, going 19-7-1 with a 2.40 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage in 27 appearances.

Alexander Semin, who had 11 points in seven games for Portland during the 2004 Calder Cup Playoffs, scored twice for Washington.