NEWARK — The Washington Capitals’ mantra this season has been work hard and earn more ice time, more responsibility. Against the New Jersey Devils on Friday night, Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau reiterated that message by electing not to play one of his team’s highest-paid players.
Washington rallied for a 3-1 win over the Devils at Prudential Center on goals by Alex Ovechkin, Jason Chimera and Marcus Johansson. The Capitals also did it without the services of talented Russian winger Alexander Semin, who was benched by Boudreau for the final 24 minutes.
“I just thought a couple guys weren’t going,” Boudreau said before addressing the reason he sat Semin. “Sometimes he’s a great player and he’s a player we’re going to need tomorrow night [against the Devils again]. I just thought you take another penalty and at the same time, there were some plays where I thought he could have done a little bit more and he didn’t. Again, one of those feelings.
“I’ve had him for four years now,” Boudreau added. “He just didn’t look like he had it tonight. I hadn’t done that, I don’t think, to him before. Just thought that we had to shorten the bench to get guys in the game.”
For the fifth time in the past six games, the Capitals gave up the first goal. After Devils rookie Adam Larsson’s first NHL marker, Washington found itself against an opponent that is perfectly content to play a slow, plodding style.
Washington’s first period was hardly the perfect response to the grueling practice Boudreau had used earlier in the week. That practice followed consecutive losses.
Benching players “can mean a lot of things,” Troy Brouwer said. “What he does [mean] — and we’re not quite sure what his intentions are all the time — but for us it just kind of means nobody’s safe. If you’re not playing quality hockey, if you’re not doing what’s best for the team, then you’re not going to get the ice time for it.”
Boudreau made his moves in the second period as he searched for a spark. He shuffled his lines, began to use Semin sparingly and later held back rookie Cody Eakin as well. Boudreau said after the game that the latter move was made to have a more veteran lineup.
But Semin skated just 2 minutes 54 seconds in the middle period and didn’t hit the ice at all in the third. For the game, Semin played just 8:25 — far less than his previous season low of 15:22.
“I think you know you’ve got to practice what you preach, too,” Boudreau said when asked if this was intended as a message to the team. “Just can’t be lip service and then go out and do the same stuff.”
The shortened bench seemed to energize the rest of the lineup. Ovechkin tied the game at 1 with less than three minutes left in the second when he swatted the puck past Martin Brodeur (17 saves) after it bounced to the crease on a point shot by Dennis Wideman.
That momentum carried over into the third. Chimera was able to sprint up ice short-handed to make it 2-1 with his first goal in nine games. Brouwer chipped the puck off the right-side wall, where Chimera collected it, used his speed to blaze past Larsson and waited to fire until Brodeur gave him most of an open net at which to shoot. Johansson added a goal for insurance with 10:43 gone in the third.
The Capitals will face the Devils in a rematch Saturday night at Verizon Center after the players were reminded once more of how to ensure that they play a part in the team’s success.
“That’s the way it’s been this year,” Chimera said. “He’s going to play the guys that’s playing well and I think that’s great. I think it’s an incentive for guys like me and [Matt] Hendricks and guys that really don’t see as much ice time, the guys working hard in that game. It could be me tomorrow who gets less ice. It’s every game, someone new, it seems like. You’re not going to have your best night every night, so you play with the guys who are going good, which is how it should be.”
Capitals notes: Mike Green made his return to the lineup after missing six games with an injured right ankle but played just 7:44 and was unable to finish after a hit by New Jersey’s Ryan Carter.
Boudreau said Green didn’t re-injure the ankle and that he is “confident” it is not a long-term problem. “It’s a day-to-day thing, not a three-week day-to-day thing,” Boudreau said. “It’s an actual day-to-day thing.” . . .
Hendricks played 11:18 after joining the team late Friday afternoon after his wife, Kim, gave birth to twin boys, Gunnar and Lennon, on Thursday. Both mother and newborns are doing well. . . .
Mathieu Perreault and Jeff Schultz were healthy scratches.