Varlamov made 37 saves and outplayed Jaroslav Halak as the Caps downed the Blues 4-1 on Wednesday night, ending an eight-game losing streak in St. Louis that was more than 14 years old.
It was payback of a sort for the Caps against Halak, who was the biggest factor in Montreal's first-round upset victory that eliminated Washington from the playoffs last spring. He allowed three goals on 134 shots as the Canadiens rallied from a 3-1 series deficit -- but on Wednesday, he allowed the same number of goals in three periods and took a back seat to Varlamov.
Coach Bruce Boudreau said he never mentioned Halak's name to his players before the game.
"We didn't have it on the board," Boudreau said. "We didn't care who was in the net. Last year was last year and we're just looking forward to hopefully the rest of this year and see where it leads."
Nicklas Backstrom had 2 goals and an assist to help Washington take the lead in the overall standings with 38 points. Brooks Laich and Boyd Gordon also scored for the Capitals, who won in St. Louis for the first time Oct. 26, 1996.
The Capitals won their fourth in a row without much from Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin -- each was limited to an assist. Backstrom's 10th goal on a rebound early in the third period put Washington up 3-1 and he added an empty-net goal in the final minute by tapping in Ovechkin's pass.
"It's always good," Backstrom said. "I mean, he destroyed our plans."
Halak, who got a four-year contract with St. Louis after a summer trade, is 2-6-1 in his last nine starts. His second-period misplay led to the Capitals' second goal.
"They capitalized on a few chances," forward David Backes said. "I don't know if they really earned their goals."
Varlamov improved to 4-0-0 since returning from a groin injury and has allowed 5 goals on 115 shots during his streak.
"I don't concentrate on the winning streak," the 22-year-old Russian goalie said through an interpreter. "I've been working as hard as I can and that's what I've been doing since I got back."
The Blues were the last NHL team to lose in regulation at home, but have lost consecutive games in a four-day span to fall to 8-2-1. Their perfect 7-0-0 start against Eastern Conference opponents also ended, and they've dropped four in a row overall.
The Caps did an excellent job bottling up the Blues' power play, which is now 0-for-16 in the last five games.
"We play them about once every century so I couldn't tell if they usually do that," Backes said. "I don't know if they saw something they wanted to exploit or that's the way they're always playing, but it was pretty effective. They kept us from setting up in the zone most of the game."
Laich had an easy tap-in from the side of the net 8:12 into the game after Backstrom's wrist shot deflected off two Blues' sticks on a power play.
The Capitals went ahead 2-0 at 10:02 of the second on Halak's mistake. Gordon flipped the puck from the side of the net and Halak took a swipe at it with his glove but only got a piece of it. The puck deflected off defenseman Eric Brewer, and rebounded into the net.
"Sometimes you just throw pucks at the net," Gordon said. "Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don't."
Alex Steen's fifth goal of the season and only second point in eight games cut the deficit to one with 31.4 seconds to go in the second. Steen floated a wrist shot from the side boards and it sailed through traffic and past Varlamov.
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report
|PPG - Brooks Laich (7) ASST: Nicklas Backstrom (19), Alexander Semin (13)|
1 - 0 WSH
|Boyd Gordon (1) ASST: Tom Poti (1), DJ King (1)|
2 - 0 WSH
|Alexander Steen (5) ASST: B.J. Crombeen (1), Erik Johnson (6)|
2 - 1 WSH
|Nicklas Backstrom (10) ASST: Mike Knuble (6), John Carlson (9)|
3 - 1 WSH
|EN - Nicklas Backstrom (11) ASST: Alex Ovechkin (23), John Erskine (4)|
4 - 1 WSH
|Jay McClement Boarding against Brooks Laich|
|Brad Boyes Too many men/ice - bench|
|Alexander Semin Tripping against Eric Brewer|
|Tom Poti Hooking against Alexander Steen|
|Mike Green Slashing against Andy McDonald|
|Jeff Schultz Hi-sticking against Andy McDonald|