MONTREAL -- The subterfuge could only last so long. Eventually it would become obvious to the trained eye as to who the Washington Capitals would be starting in goal for Game 3, and finally that happened at the end of their Monday morning skate at Bell Centre.
Semyon Varlamov was the first goalie off the ice and that means he will most likely be the starting goalie for the Capitals tonight against the Montreal Canadiens (7 p.m. ET, TSN, RDS). The series is even at 1-1.
Varlamov came on in relief of Laval, Quebec native Jose Theodore in Game 2 Saturday night to make 19 saves and earn the win, 6-5, in overtime. Theodore, a former Canadien, allowed goals on the first two shots he faced and was pulled just 7:58 into the game.
Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, who said Saturday that he made the switch to energize the crowd and the team, said Sunday that he hadn't made his decision yet. Monday, as he spoke in the press conference room while the Capitals were on the ice, Boudreau said, "You guys can tell if you are out there watching, so I'll let you figure it out."
Varlamov started in place of Theodore in Game 2 of last year's first-round series against the New York Rangers and quickly became a hero in D.C.
He finished the playoffs with a 7-6 record, 2 shutouts, a .918 save percentage and 2.53 goals-against average. Theodore didn't play again until Game 7 against Pittsburgh when Varlamov gave up four goals on 18 shots in just over 22 minutes.
"He's got experience now," Alex Ovechkin said of his teammate and countryman.
"Varly finished the last game strong and (Boudreau) wants to keep the momentum into this game," added defenseman Mike Green. "Both guys can play and it's unfortunate that happened at the start of a game, but I'm sure if something happens to Varly that Jose will be right back in there and he'll play the way he can."
Montreal is also likely to make a major change by bringing Glen Metropolit back into the lineup. Metropolit suffered a shoulder injury on March 27 against New Jersey and was told he would miss the next six to eight weeks, but he received clearance by the doctors in just three weeks.
Even though Montreal coach Jacques Martin said it will be a game-time decision on Metropolit, all indications from the player is that he's going to play. In fact, when NHL.com asked Metropolit if the media would be talking to him in the Habs dressing room after the game, he emphatically said, "Yes."
"I believed that I was going to beat that 6-8 week thing," Metropolit said. "I did everything right and the staff was unbelievable. We were here all the time, five hours a day and doing whatever we can. We've done a great job and I'm happy to be back, that's for sure."
With Metropolit back, Sergei Kostitsyn will be scratched from the Game 3 lineup. He is scoreless with a minus-1 and three shots through two games.
Metropolit, who will play center on either the third or fourth line, scored 10 of his 16 goals this season on the power play. He said his shoulder is fine and he's not at all worried about taking faceoffs.
"The doctor cleared it and I feel good out there," Metropolit said. "I did all the hard work and now hopefully I can get in there and help the team. I just hope to give us a little bit more depth, make the right plays, keep it simple and do what I can."
It also appears Washington center Eric Belanger will move up to the second line and play between Alexander Semin and Tomas Fleischmann. Brendan Morrison and Brooks Laich, both second-liners in Game 2, will drop to the third line to play with Eric Fehr.
Boudreau's goal in moving Belanger up is to hopefully get Semin going. The enigmatic Russian right wing has no points and four penalty minutes in the series. He finished the regular season with 40 goals and 44 assists.
"I'm hoping I can get him going," Belanger said. "That's good for our team. We need him to be one of the best players because when he's on his game he can win a game by himself. He's an unbelievable player and if he puts it to his head to work everything else is going to come back and fall into place."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl