For the past couple of seasons, many have been wondering when Washington Capitals winger, Alexander Semin, would begin to play like the star many envisioned him being–when he would make clutch plays in critical moments and score goals when the team needed it most. More importantly, when would he lift the burden, Capitals’ captain and fellow Russian Alex Ovechkin, has been carrying for several years?
Based on the past several games, that time has arrived. Semin scored the game-winning goal in overtime against the Florida Panthers, to lift Washington to a 3-2 victory. Then, he tied the game versus the Tampa Bay Lightning, which the Capitals won 2-1 in a shootout. The victories give Washington five wins in a row, 7 wins in the past 8 games, and the Southeast division lead for the first time in more than two months. The Capitals are also within two points of the top spot in the Eastern Conference behind the Philadelphia Flyers.
Both victories were tight contests, with the intensity of playoff showdowns. Since the trade deadline passed last week, new additions, Jason Arnott, Marco Sturm, and Dennis Wideman, made strong contributions. Alex Ovechkin continues to play his best hockey of the season, assisting on the game-tying goal by Semin, and scoring the lone goal in the shootout to win the game versus the Lightning.
Goalie Michal Neuvirth played well in both games, though he was removed from the game vs Tampa Bay because of a minor injury (a piece of his mask flew into his eye after the puck hit him in the head). Center Nicklas Backstrom also suffered an injury to his previously injured hand and was held out of the third period for precautionary reasons. Neither player is expected to miss significant time. In addition, Eric Fehr and defenseman Mike Green should be coming back soon, making the Capitals formidable as the Stanley Cup Playoffs are about a month away.