Semin, Fleischmann Spark Capitals
Monday, March 19, 2007
Washington Capitals prospect Tomas Fleischmann put together the strongest game of his NHL career, scoring a pair of goals and assisting on two others in yesterday's 7-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Unfortunately for him, it was only the second-best performance of the afternoon at Verizon Center.
Alexander Semin stole Fleischmann's spotlight by scoring on three consecutive shots -- during a 7-minute, 4-second span of the second period -- to help the Capitals secure back-to-back wins for the first time since January and put a recent nine-game losing streak, the franchise's worst in 25 years, a little farther in the past.
"Don't blame me," Semin said through an interpreter when asked about overshadowing his linemate's performance, laughing. "I tried to get him a hat trick. When we had that two-on-one, I wanted to pass him the puck, but the defenseman sprawled and there was no room to pass."
So, instead, Semin faked Lightning goaltender Marc Denis as he skated across and deftly slipped a backhander into the net to put the Capitals ahead 4-0. Denis had replaced starter Johan Holmqvist, then was sent back to the bench a few minutes later after Semin scored his third goal.
It didn't matter who Lightning Coach John Tortorella put in net because he couldn't stop the Capitals, who seem to have embraced the role of spoiler. On Friday, they defeated Toronto, 5-1, to keep the Maple Leafs one point out of the playoffs. Yesterday, they handed the Lightning its third consecutive defeat, which dropped it six points behind Atlanta in the Southeast Division race.
"They have nothing to lose," Tampa Bay Captain Tim Taylor said. "They are out of the playoffs. They have no chance. Every year they are like this. Last year they beat us in the last game of the season to knock us to eighth."
Capitals forwards Alexandre Giroux and Boyd Gordon also scored -- each for the second straight game -- and goaltender Olie Kolzig turned aside 30 shots. Meantime, Gordon and linemates Brooks Laich and Chris Clark were instrumental in shutting down Tampa Bay stars Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis.
"We're starting to get it back again," Capitals Coach Glen Hanlon said, "and I think the addition of Kolzig in goal is big. There's something about reliability there. [Backup Brent Johnson] played well, but Olie is a hard person to replace."
Capitals star Alex Ovechkin did not score for the third consecutive game and played only sparingly after being unintentionally whacked across the face by Lightning defenseman Dan Boyle's stick midway through the third period. Ovechkin received stitches in his bottom lip but was not seriously injured.
The only controversy afterward was which Washington forward -- Fleischmann or Semin -- had the better game. Fleischmann (three goals in the past two games) and Semin (two hat tricks this season) skated together on a line centered by Kris Beech (two assists).
"Fleischmann is a talented kid," Kolzig said. "But number 28 [Semin], I've never seen a guy shoot the puck like that in all my years."
Fleischmann, one of the youngsters fighting for a spot on next season's roster, dominated the first period, taking four of his game-high five shots.
His first goal came at 5:31, when he broke in on Holmqvist alone and beat the Lightning goalie under the glove to put the Capitals ahead 1-0. The play began with Gordon forcing Boyle into coughing up the puck at the blueline.
Then, after Kolzig helped the Capitals kill off a penalty, Fleischmann made it 2-0 when he beat Holmqvist with another hard, low shot. Fleischmann controlled a pass along the boards in the neutral zone, then cut hard to the middle as he entered the Tampa Bay zone, where he wound up and fired between Lightning defensemen Doug Janik and Filip Kuba at 13:38.
Fleischmann's next shot on goal, which struck Holmqvist on the shoulder and almost went in, led to a goaltender change. Denis took over in the Lightning's net at 16:39.
Semin's first goal came on the power play after firing a pass from Chris Clark past Denis at 1:14 of the second period. After converting the two-on-one with Fleischmann at 6:45, Semin struck again at 8:18 with a perfectly placed wrist shot from the slot, which also chased Denis.
Asked if he was mad about Semin overshadowing him, Fleischmann joked: "No, I'm not. Really. I should have put a third goal in there, but it didn't happen."