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Goaltending the focus as Capitals visit Canadiens on TSN

The Sports Network

4/19/2010 1:22:36 PM

(Sports Network) - The top-seeded Washington Capitals will try to build off the momentum gained from a thrilling victory when they visit the Montreal Canadiens for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals tonight at Bell Centre.

This best-of-seven series is tied at one game apiece, but the mighty Capitals were staring at a two games to none hole before mounting an amazing comeback in Saturday's home win over the Habs.

Washington lost Game 1 in overtime and trailed by a 4-1 score heading into the final two minutes of the second period on Saturday. However, the Caps stormed back for a 6-5 OT victory.

Nicklas Backstrom set up the tying goal for the Capitals with 1:21 remaining in the third period and then completed his hat trick with the game-winner 31 seconds into overtime.

After being held without a shot in Game 1, Alex Ovechkin registered a goal and three assists for the Presidents' Trophy-winning Capitals, who avoided being swept at home to begin the playoffs for the second straight year. Last spring, Washington dropped the first two games in the opening series to the Rangers at Verizon Center, but ultimately prevailed in seven games.

Capitals starting goaltender Jose Theodore was pulled and replaced by Semyon Varlamov after allowing goals on the first two shots he faced. A visibly frustrated Theodore slammed his stick as he came off the ice. Varlamov finished with 19 saves and will get the start tonight.

The switch in net brought back shades of last season when a wobbly Theodore started Game 1 against New York. Washington head coach Bruce Boudreau went with Varlamov for Game 2 and stuck with the untested rookie for the duration of the 2009 postseason.

Backstrom's heroics overshadowed Andrei Kostitsyn, who had a hat trick of his own for Montreal.

"He had a good game," said Boudreau. "I mean Nicky's (Backstrom) a great player and great players come to the floor when you need them."

Michael Cammalleri collected three assists for the Canadiens, who had lost eight consecutive postseason games before Tomas Plekanec supplied the overtime winner on Thursday.

Jaroslav Halak, who will get the start on Monday,  made 31 saves on 37 shots in defeat.

"Mistakes cost us," said Canadiens coach Jacques Martin. "I think when you play a team of this caliber, you can't make the kind of mistakes that we did to give them some momentum, and give them an opportunity to win the game."

Habs center Glen Metropolit has been out since suffering a shoulder injury on March 27, an ailment that was slated to sideline him for as long as two months. However, the veteran has been practicing with the team and will return tonight.

Montreal, which will also host Game 4 on Wednesday, was 20-16-5 at the Bell Centre this season. The Capitals had an excellent 24-10-7 record as the road team during the regular season.

The Habs and Caps have never faced each other in the postseason before, but played a very tight season series this year. Each team won two games and only one of the four tilts was decided by more than one goal -- a 4-2 win by Washington on Jan. 5.