By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 18, 2009
There are times when Alexander Semin overwhelms opponents with his sublime stick handling. There are other times when he does the same with his superb shot.
Last night in a meeting of the Eastern Conference's top two clubs, Semin used both -- on the same play, nonetheless -- to lift the Washington Capitals to a 2-1 victory over the Boston Bruins and leave a sellout crowd of 18,277 at Verizon Center in awe.
"I wish he'd shoot more," Coach Bruce Boudreau said of the winger's third-period strike. "He's got that kind of shot. He's got that kind of individual talent, and you can see it all the time."
The win snapped the Capitals' two game-losing streak at home, where they are now 19-3-1. But more importantly, it trimmed the Bruins' lead over Washington in the race for the top seed in the conference to nine points. The teams meet again, three games from now, in Boston on Jan. 27.
Mike Green scored Washington's other goal, his 12th of the season and team-leading 10th on the power play, while goaltender José Theodore made 23 stops, including 10 in the third period. Marc Savard, meantime, scored on the power play for Boston, which has lost only four times in the past 23 games, with two of those defeats coming at the hands of the Capitals.
"It was a playoff [type] game, that mentality," Theodore said. "It was a real tight game. Obviously, [no one] wanted to make a mistake."
But the Bruins, who were missing six regulars, made one late, and Semin made them pay for it.
The play began with defenseman Milan Jurcina diving to knock the puck away from Bruins center Martin St. Pierre deep in the Washington zone. Semin stole St. Pierre's errant pass moments later and gathered a head of steam. He then put the puck around Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart, streaked through the neutral zone and rifled a blistering slap shot over Tim Thomas's glove hand from the top of the circles with 8 minutes 12 seconds remaining to put the Capitals ahead 2-1.
"Tim Thomas, as good as he was, I don't know if he expected a shot to come out that quick," Boudreau said of Semin's first career goal against Boston and his fourth goal in the past four games. "When you're going down the wing, and it's just a normal shot, you don't expect it to go in against him quite frankly."
Theodore and Washington's penalty killers made sure it stayed that way after defenseman John Erskine was sent to the penalty box for elbowing with 1:41 remaining, allowing the Bruins to skate six on four.
"I wasn't feeling too great after that" penalty, said Erskine, who played an otherwise spectacular game, earning the second star. "But the P.K. guys saved me there."
The Capitals, fully aware of what was on the line, came out strong and held a 7-5 edge in shots on goal in the first period. But they were unable to solve Thomas, who, despite being the goaltender of record in a 10-2 loss here last March, has routinely dominated the Capitals throughout his career, entering the contest with a 8-1-1 record against them.
In the second period, Savard wasted little time in putting the Bruins ahead 1-0. With Jurcina in the penalty box for holding, Boston's third-ranked power play went to work. About 30 seconds into the advantage, Chuck Kobasew took a shot from the slot that hit a morass of legs and skates and wound up squirting sideways out to Savard, who snapped a shot past Theodore from a tight angle before the goaltender could recover from the quick change of direction.
Washington's penalty kill, which came into the contest ranked 23rd, yielded a power play goal for the sixth consecutive contest.
The Capitals, though, pulled even at 1-1 with a power play goal of their own, scored by -- who else? -- Green.
And it came the way so many of Green's goals have. He sneaked backdoor, took a slick cross-slot pass from Michael Nylander, glided into close range and whipped a wrist shot over Thomas's glove.
As pretty as Green's goal was, it did not compare to Semin's.
"It was Guy LaFleur-ish," Thomas said. "There's not that many times when a guy has that much time to wind up for a slap shot like that."
Capitals Notes: Captain Chris Clark was a healthy scratch for the second straight game as Boudreau used the same lineup that won in Pittsburgh on Wednesday. . . . The Capitals improved to 13-3-2 against the top eight teams in the East.