Thursday's Late Game
No Ovechkin, no problem: Capitals crush Panthers, 6-2
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
With Alex Ovechkin sitting out the first of a two-game suspension Thursday night, the Washington Capitals needed their other Alex to be special. And in his first game back from injury, that's exactly what Alexander Semin was.
Semin scored twice and set up two more to help Semyon Varlamov and the Capitals to a 6-2 pummeling of the penalty-prone Florida Panthers at Verizon Center.
The win was the Capitals' fourth straight overall and third in three games against Florida. It improved their record against the Southeast Division to 6-0-0.
Varlamov made 26 stops to improve to 11-1-2, while Tomas Fleischmann, Matt Bradley, Nicklas Backstrom and Brendan Morrison scored as the Capitals opened a 6-0 lead early in the third period before backing off.
"I like the way we followed the game plan in the beginning [because] we thought they would be tired," Coach Bruce Boudreau said of the Panthers, who got into Washington around 3 a.m. after beating Colorado in a shootout at home Wednesday night. "We [thought if we] attacked them early and got them down early, they wouldn't have the strength to come back. It worked well."
The Capitals had little trouble generating offense against the 13th-place Panthers despite being without Ovechkin, who also will miss Saturday's game in Philadelphia while serving a suspension for his knee-to-knee hit on Carolina's Tim Gleason. The Capitals are 5-1-1 minus Ovechkin this season and 6-4-1 all time.
While Ovechkin watched from a suite high above the ice, Semin, his good friend and fellow Russian put the Panthers under his spell. Skating on the top line with Brooks Laich and Backstrom, Semin posted his first four-point night since March 14.
"He was well-rested," Boudreau said of Semin, who had missed seven games with a wrist injury. "He should have had a lot of energy."
Varlamov's bid for his second shutout in three starts ended with 3 minutes 22 seconds remaining when Stephen Weiss fired in his own rebound. Only 43 seconds later, Bryan Allen scored from the blue line on a shot that hit Capitals defenseman Milan Jurcina before eluding the Capitals' netminder.
Washington dominated the game from the outset, outshooting the Panthers 18-6 in the first period. The Capitals' 44 shots represented a season high.
After a number of near misses in the opening minutes, Semin opened the scoring at 10:34 with a blistering wrist shot over Scott Clemmensen's glove from the right circle.