Capitals Hand Champs 3rd Straight Loss

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By HOWARD FENDRICH
The Associated Press
Saturday, October 7, 2006; 10:49 PM

WASHINGTON -- Everyone knew the Washington Capitals had one fantastic young Russian left wing named Alexander: Ovechkin, last season's Calder Trophy winner.

Well, now it appears the Capitals have two players who fit that description, because Alexander Semin is back in the NHL and taking some of the load off his teammate's shoulders.

Ovechkin broke a tie with two third-period goals, Semin had a hat trick, and Washington beat the Carolina Hurricanes 5-2 Saturday night, the third consecutive loss for the Stanley Cup champions.

"After I thank God at night for having a great wife," Capitals coach Glen Hanlon said, "I say a quiet prayer for having those two guys on my team."

Perhaps frustrated by beginning his sophomore year with five scoreless periods, Ovechkin went into a prolonged celebration after putting the puck in the net 8:04 into the third period to put Washington ahead 3-2.

He kissed his right glove, pumped it, then let out a yell. He was surrounded by teammates for hugs and backslaps, then skated over to the bench, where he shouted again as he looked up and saw himself on the overhead video board.

"I hold myself accountable," Carolina goalie Cam Ward said. "That's a stop I've got to make, especially that time of the game."

A second shy of exactly 5 minutes later, Ovechkin scored again, this time redirecting defenseman Brian Pothier's shot from the slot on a power play to make it 4-2.

"Everybody played together _ that's why we beat the Stanley Cup champions," said Ovechkin, who took a career-high 15 shots. "First period, I played awful. Terrible. Second period, I told myself: Shoot everything."

Semin, who scored in each period, added the finishing touch with 2:47 left in the game on a close-range goal. Pothier collected one of his three assists on that one, which gave Semin his first three-goal game in 54 NHL contests.

"I scored three tonight _ but I could have scored more," Semin said through a translator.

It capped quite a home opener for the Capitals, who finished 27th out of 30 NHL teams last season.


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