By Katie Carrera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 18, 2011; D07
ANAHEIM, CALIF. - For a night, the Washington Capitals didn't want for goals. Facing an Anaheim Ducks squad that had scored at least three goals in each of its past four contests, the Capitals quickly accepted their roles as Western gunslingers in an old-fashioned, high-scoring shootout where defense was optional and it was a bad night to be a goaltender.
All told, 11 players scored goals and 20 recorded points Wednesday night at Honda Center. But Alexander Semin's tally with 1 minute 47 seconds to go proved decisive in a 7-6 Capitals victory. The goal also marked the fourth hat trick of the season for Semin, who entered Wednesday on a 17-game goal-scoring drought.
The contest was the highest-scoring game the Capitals have been in this season and marked only the fourth time they tallied five or more goals in the last 38 games. The up-and-down pace came at the expense of the team defense that had been the Capitals' recent hallmark: They allowed six goals for the first time since a 7-0 loss to the New York Rangers on Dec. 12.
Semyon Varlamov started the contest but was pulled after allowing three goals on nine shots in the first period. Michal Neuvirth earned the victory with nine saves. For Anaheim, regular backup Curtis McElhinney made 24 saves in his 13th start of the season after the Ducks put all-star Jonas Hiller on injured reserve earlier in the day because of light-headedness.
The Capitals suffered what can only be described as a bad break just 4 minutes 10 seconds into the game, when the puck redirected off Brooks Laich's skate and popped out to the Ducks' Ryan Getzlaf. Anaheim's captain beat Varlamov to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead.
The Capitals responded with a few strong shifts of their own and near the midway point of the period Nicklas Backstrom found Alex Ovechkin jumping up ice with a crisp lead pass. Ovechkin made quick work of defenseman Andreas Lilja to get a partial breakaway and rifle the puck past McElhinney.
Washington continued to make chances for itself with a steady diet of dumping in the puck and a strong forecheck. When Ducks veteran winger and future Hall of Famer Teemu Selanne made a bad pass through center ice in his own zone, Laich was able to pick off the puck and deke for a clean shot over McElhinney's pad to make it 2-1 with just less than four minutes remaining in the period.
But that wouldn't be enough to stave off the Ducks.
Veteran center Saku Koivu deftly skated his way past Matt Bradley and Mathieu Perreault to get a better shot on the Capitals' net and Selanne redirected the puck in front to tie the score at 2 with less than two minutes remaining in the first period. Another deflection, this time off a point shot by Toni Lydman that eluded Varlamov with just 30.7 seconds left in the frame, gave the Ducks the lead once more at 3-2.
Neuvirth entered the game at the start of the second period, but things weren't about to get less dramatic.
On Washington's first power play of the game, Anaheim's Corey Perry wound up with the best chance as he avoided Ovechkin for a short-handed breakaway and goal to make it 4-2. The Capitals scored a pair of goals in 1:11 to tie the score once more with a redirect by David Steckel followed by Semin's first marker of the game.
Anaheim scored again when the puck deflected off Backstrom's stick to give a Ducks a 5-4 edge at 13:18 of the second.
The Capitals endured a scary moment 31/2 minutes later when Ducks defenseman Andy Sutton hit Matt Hendricks, whose back was turned, into the boards. Hendricks hit the boards headfirst and he fell to the ice, prompting defenseman John Erskine to challenge Sutton to fight. Sutton was given a two-minute penalty for boarding on the hit.
Fifty-eight seconds into the third, Mike Knuble scored with a nifty series of dekes on a breakaway to knot the score at 5. The constant flurry of chances would yield one for Anaheim's Bobby Ryan, who made it 6-5 at 5:51. Semin became the first player to score a second goal when he drew the Capitals even at 6 with less than 10 minutes to go.