By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 28, 2010; D10
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The high-powered Washington Capitals had been forced to overtime by the plucky New York Islanders in each of the teams' previous three meetings this season.
Alexander Semin and his teammates didn't let it happen a fourth time.
Semin tallied twice in the first period, and the Capitals got goals from five others, including John Erskine's first in 109 games, as they humbled the Islanders, 7-2, and extended their winning streak to a season-best seven games.
"I wouldn't say unstoppable, but they're in a groove," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Teams, whether you're in first place or 30th, at some point in a season things just seem to be working, clicking. Right now things are clicking for us. We got seven goals and [Alex Ovechkin] and [Mike Green] didn't get a point. It says you've good balance in your team."
Six of the seven goals came at even strength. It also marked the 16th time the Capitals scored five or more goals this season and 10th time since Ovechkin was named captain 11 games ago that they've amassed at least four. Washington is averaging a league best 3.81 goals per game; San Jose is second at 3.28.
"When we get up here, we don't let up," said Jason Chimera, who had a goal and an assist to notch his second multipoint game as a Capital. "We just keep on scoring, and that makes it tough for teams to get back in it."
The win, however, may prove to be a costly one. Goaltender José Theodore did not return for the third period and was replaced by Michal Neuvirth. Boudreau would only say that Theodore is day-to-day with a lower body injury.
Because Semyon Varlamov is still sidelined with a knee injury, Theodore's ailment forced the Capitals to recall touted prospect Braden Holtby from the minor league Hershey Bears before attempting to extend their winning streak Wednesday against the Anaheim Ducks.
The Capitals have not won eight in a row since the 1988-89 season.
Although Theodore had yielded two goals on 20 shots before departing, almost all of the action in the first 40 minutes had been at the other end of the rink, where Islanders Coach Scott Gordon changed goaltenders after the first period for a different reason.
The league's most prolific offense had chased Dwayne Roloson after the veteran yielded four goals, including two from Semin, on 12 shots.
Although Boudreau said his offense isn't unstoppable, against the Islanders, it was awfully close.
Brendan Morrison began the rout with his first goal in more than a month when he redirected Erskine's point shot past Roloson only 65 seconds in.
Fewer than four minutes later, Semin cut from the right boards through the middle of the offensive zone, weaving around Frans Nielsen and Trent Hunter, before whipping a wrist shot over Roloson's glove.
Later in the period, Ovechkin took out Islanders defenseman Jack Hillen with a high slap shot. Hillen crumpled to the ice, bleeding profusely from the face. After several minutes, he was helped off the ice and was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, a team official said.
"We hate that," Boudreau said. "When you've got kids playing hockey, and you see that, you just hope his face is okay."
A hush fell over the crowd. Then the Capitals added insult to injury.
Mike Knuble made it 3-1 when he knocked in his own rebound -- on his third whack -- with 1:47 remaining in the first period. Then, with 5.2 seconds remaining in the opening session, Semin's second of the night put the Capitals ahead 4-1. After weaving his way down the slot, the winger sent a pass through the crease that hit Bruno Gervais and came right back to him, and he put the deflection in off Roloson.
"That was pretty dynamic," Boudreau said of Semin's second strike, which gives him eight multigoal games this season. "There's not many guys who can do that."
Gordon, in search of a spark and perhaps a save or two, replaced Roloson between periods. Just three shots into the second, though, Erskine finished off a crossing pass from Eric Fehr to push the lead to 5-1. The goal was Erskine's first in two years.
"One hundred and nine games?" Erskine said with a laugh. "Fehrsie saw me and snuck the pass through. It makes you feel good. I don't get them too often, so I wasn't even sure what to do when it went in."
Capitals notes: Ovechkin's nine-game point streak was halted, despite him taking 10 shots on goal. . . .
Varlamov did not skate again Tuesday, meaning he had been off the ice for more than a week. But the goaltender, who has been sidelined since Dec. 7 with a groin-muscle strain and sprained right knee, skated on his own Wednesday morning at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.