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Semin Lifts Caps From Long Range

Victimized Goalie Calls 70-Foot OT Winner 'One of the Luckiest Shots I've Ever Seen': Capitals 4, Bruins 3

Mike Green congratulates Alexander Semin, right, after the shot from outside the blueline that beat Tim Thomas and moved the Capitals within eight points of the Bruins atop the Eastern Conference.
Mike Green congratulates Alexander Semin, right, after the shot from outside the blueline that beat Tim Thomas and moved the Capitals within eight points of the Bruins atop the Eastern Conference. (By Lisa Poole -- The Associated Press)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 1, 2009; Page D01

BOSTON, Feb. 28 -- Alexander Semin was out of breath and headed to the bench for a line change. But before he did, the Washington Capitals' winger wound up and fired a slap shot from a few strides over center ice on Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, the league's leader in save percentage and goals against average.

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Even Semin couldn't fathom what would happen next: his dump-in from about 70 feet -- the puck also appeared to be going a smidge wide of the goal -- ended up hitting Thomas, then somehow squeezing past him 22 seconds into overtime to lift the Capitals to a 4-3 victory in the final regular season meeting between the top two teams in the Eastern Conference.

"Nine times out of ten, he'll deke nine guys before shooting," Coach Bruce Boudreau said of Semin. "But I'm glad he did it."

Semin's unlikely goal, his 24th of the season, gave the Capitals a 3-0-1 record in four games against the Bruins, trimmed Boston's lead in the conference to eight points with 19 games remaining for both teams, and left Boston Coach Claude Julien fuming.

Washington also received goals from Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and Tomas Fleischmann as well as 34 saves from José Theodore. But all anyone wanted to talk about afterward was Semin's winner, which sent the Capitals' bench into a delirious celebration and stunned a capacity crowd at TD Banknorth Garden.

I "was tired and trying to shoot the puck in the zone," Semin said through Ovechkin, who interpreted for his fellow Russian. I "was a little surprised, but sometimes it happens."

Thomas, a two-time all-star known for his spectacular if unconventional saves, said the puck's trajectory fooled him.

"That was one of the luckiest shots I've ever seen," said Thomas, who stopped three breakaways and 28 shots but fell to 9-2-2 all time against the Capitals. "It was about three inches off the ice until it was halfway to me. Then it just started to lift."

Semin's fluky goal capped another hard-fought and entertaining game between a pair of rivals many expect to cross paths again in the conference finals in May. Three of the teams' meetings were decided by one goal, two of them in overtime. The only game decided by more than a goal -- a 3-1 Capitals win on Dec. 10 -- included an empty-net goal.

Julien scoffed when asked whether the Capitals had gained a mental advantage by winning three of the four meetings.

"I've heard them say that they're in our heads," he said. "They do a lot of talking. They're one-goal games. They could have gone either way. By all means, I don't think they scare us."

The score was tied 2-2 entering the third period. That changed when Fleischmann's attempted centering pass to Ovechkin hit the toe of Dennis Wideman's skate and slipped past Thomas at 2 minutes 20 seconds.

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