Alexander Semin has seemingly done more interviews this week than he had for the past six months. If he keeps playing like he did Wednesday night in the Capitals’ 2-1 overtime victory over the New York Rangers, he’ll do a lot more.
Semin was arguably the Caps’ best player for long stretches of time, assisted on Alex Ovechkin’s tying goal in the third and then blasted the game winner past Henrik Lundqvist with the minutes ticking away in overtime.
Ovechkin mobbed Semin after that goal – and the relief was palpable. It was Semin’s first playoff goal since April 28, 2009 – a drought of 14 games.
“We’re all happy for Sasha because last year he was a little bit upset he didn’t score any goals,” Ovechkin said. “Right now it’s very important for him to step up and show his leadership.”
Talking to The Times with an interpreter earlier in the week, Semin showed off some quiet confidence. He was clearly in a playoff zone more than 55 hours before Game 1 began – but he did talk in some glowing terms about why he loves playing hockey.
“I like the excitement, I like scoring goals, the fans, everything. I’ve been living hockey my entire life,” Semin said. “This is what I’ve been living.”
He got to feel it all Wednesday night – scoring the dramatic winner and assisting on Ovechkin’s tying goal that held up after video review.
Semin even showed off some personality after his teammate’s goal in the third period – apparently as the first person in the building to know the puck was over the line.
“I saw Sasha was like screaming, ‘Goal goal,’ so I was excited and started celebrating,” Ovechkin said.
Coach Bruce Boudreau said he could sense that Semin wanted this game – and to contribute – badly. It’s not a luxury for him to score, either.
“For our team, we’re not getting anywhere without Alex Semin scoring,” Boudreau said. “We need him to go to create that other offensive threat.”
Earlier in the week, right wing Mike Knuble agreed to the notion that a lot of Semin’s enigmatic personality can be forgiven because he’s a game breaker.
“The talent on the ice is indisputable,” Knuble said.
Semin doesn’t feel comfortable talking to reporters in English, though with teammates it’s “absolutely no problem,” he said. He doesn’t appear comfortable in front of cameras and microphones in general – but to him even speaking to reporters after a performance like Wednesday night’s isn’t a terrible thing.
“No, it’s all right, guys,” he said. “Don’t worry.”