Semin's Hat Trick Sparks Caps' Win in Home Opener
Sunday, October 8, 2006
Washington Capitals left wing Alexander Semin was supposed to be the second scoring threat, the complementary player who would deflect some of the defensive attention away from Alex Ovechkin. Through two games, however, Semin has been anything but secondary.
Last night, Semin recorded his first career hat trick and Ovechkin scored twice for the Capitals, who, in their home opener before 16,622, defeated the Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes, 5-2, at Verizon Center.
"I don't rate them one and two," Coach Glen Hanlon joked, referring to his young Russian wingers. "After I thank God at night for having a great wife, I say a quiet prayer for having those two guys on my team. Olie usually gets in on that one, as well."
Capitals goaltender Olie Kolzig was also spectacular, stopping 25 shots. His counterpart in the Carolina goal, Cam Ward, made 30 saves.
Semin, playing in his first regular season game in Washington since 2004 because of a nasty two-year-long contract dispute, scored the Capitals' first, second and fifth goals. Dozens of hats rained down onto the ice after his power-play tally in the final minutes. The 22-year-old also scored against the Rangers in the season opener Thursday.
"It's very nice that I scored in my first game back in Washington," Semin said through a interpreter. "I scored three goals tonight, but I could have scored more."
Ovechkin, who recorded a career-high 15 shots on goal, broke a 2-2 tie 8 minutes 4 seconds into the third period with a wrist shot from the side boards. Then, 4:59 later, he extended the Capitals' edge to 4-2 by redirecting defenseman Brian Pothier's slap shot.
Right wing Chris Clark, whom Hanlon put back on Ovechkin's line after it struggled in New York, assisted on both of Ovechkin's goals and one of Semin's.
"They are the Stanley Cup champions, but tonight, in the third period, we dominate," Ovechkin said with a smile. "Everybody play together tonight."
Ovechkin escaped a potentially serious injury in the final minutes. After he smashed Carolina star Eric Staal from behind, Hurricanes defenseman Tim Gleason stuck out his leg, making contact with Ovechkin's left knee and upending the Capitals' left wing. Ovechkin stayed on the ice for several moments before skating off gingerly. He returned moments later.
"I'm lucky," Ovechkin said. "I don't know what happened, but he play not fair. I just have move and he hits me."
Semin's first goal of the night came at 12:38 of the first period. Clark corralled a loose puck near center ice and zipped a pass to Semin, who waited until Carolina defenseman Anton Babchuk skated between him and the goaltender. With Ward screened, Semin unleashed a slap shot through Ward's pads from the top of the circle to send the Capitals into the locker room with a 1-0 lead.
But Washington's lead didn't last long. At 1:40 of an unpredictable second period, Carolina's Andrew Ladd, on the power play, redirected Gleason's slap shot past Kolzig to knot the score at 1.
Hurricanes defenseman Niclas Wallin made it 2-1 at 5:21 with a wrist shot from the sideboards. Kolzig appeared to be screened by two teammates and a Carolina player.
For a while after Wallin's goal, it appeared the Hurricanes were about to blow it open. But then Semin decided he wouldn't let them.
Semin made it 2-2 at 9:11. He skated slowly through the circle, sidestepped a Carolina defenseman, froze Ward with another fake, then whipped a shot over the goalie's catching glove.
Although Ovechkin did not score in the second period, he certainly made his presence felt, launching seven shots on Ward. At one point, after Ward thwarted another of his shots, Ovechkin dropped to his knees and rolled his eyes skyward.
He didn't have too wait long for his prayers to be answered.
"It's unbelievable," Clark said of Semin and Ovechkin. "Those guys are a dream come true for this organization. We've got Olie to stop the pucks and we've got them. They're going to chip in a goal almost every game between the two of them."