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Semin, Caps end losing streak

- The Washington Times - Friday, January 19, 2007

RALEIGH, N.C. -- It started with a lucky deflection, but Alexander Semin added plenty of panache.

Semin scored a pair of beautiful goals and Olie Kolzig was stellar between the pipes to help the Washington Capitals knock off the Carolina Hurricanes 5-2 at RBC Center and snap a three-game losing streak.

"All the teams in our conference seem to be going through streaks whether it is winning or losing," Kolzig said. "It will be the teams that minimize the losing streaks. We held it at three and we have an opportunity to get another one Saturday [at home against Florida] and go into the break feeling good about ourselves."

Semin put Washington ahead 2-0 with a power-play marker 9:33 into the second period. Dainius Zubrus won the faceoff cleanly and Semin corralled the puck, faked a shot to slip by a defender and snapped a wrist shot over the left shoulder of goaltender John Grahame four seconds into the power play for his 26th goal of the season.

After Erik Cole cut the lead in half with a rebound goal exactly two minutes into the final period, Semin notched the game-winner after tough guy Donald Brashear's perfect pass led him to a breakaway. Carolina defenseman David Tanabe dived to knock the puck away, but Semin slid the puck to his forehand and ripped a shot under the crossbar to the same spot above Grahame.

It was Semin's fourth multi-goal game in the past seven.

"I was just trying to make a simple play and clear the puck and make sure it got out," Brashear said. "When we do we usually have a guy coming across and it happened that he was there and it fell in the right hands. He made me look good."

Kolzig was fabulous in the third period, stopping several point-blank opportunities to withstand furious pressure from the Hurricanes. He finished the game with 34 saves, including 13 in the final period.

The Caps scored the only goal of a wild and wide-open first period. Chris Clark, who also scored an empty-net goal to close the scoring, dumped the puck harmlessly toward the left corner from the right side at center ice, but Tanabe reached his stick above his head and knocked it out of the air. Grahame had drifted toward the corner in anticipation of playing the puck and got caught cheating as it bounced into an open net for Clark's 18th goal of the season.

"The guys were kidding. They said, 'Clarkie got two beautiful goals and Semin fluked a couple,' " Caps coach Glen Hanlon said. "The one shot he got off the face-off -- it is pretty much unstoppable if it hits the net."

Both teams had several great scoring chances in the opening period. Boyd Gordon had a breakaway and the Caps had a 2-on-1 in the first 70 seconds of the game. Twice Washington created a scrum in front of the net and had multiple rebound attempts but could not beat Grahame.

Carolina's Justin Williams banged a shot off the left post and Dennis Seidenberg had a wide-open wrap-around attempt but stuffed the puck off the side of the post. The Caps had 17 shots in the first period, quite a reversal for a team that has struggled, especially early in the past few games.

"We hate losing," Brian Sutherby said. "The first five [minutes] are always huge, especially on the road in another team's barn. It is huge to come out and set the tone and try to jump all over them. It could have easily been 2- or 3-0."

Notes -- Because of injuries, Hanlon shuffled his defense pairings. He split up his top duo of Brian Pothier and Shaone Morrisonn, pairing Pothier with Lawrence Nycholat and Morrisonn with Steve Eminger. New call-up Jeff Schultz teamed with Jamie Heward. ...

Hanlon also promoted Gordon to center the second line because he wanted to pit Gordon's defensive skills against one of the Hurricanes' top two lines centered by Eric Staal and Rod Brind'Amour.

Gordon is the third different player to center the second line in the past four games.

"When somebody asks that question [about juggling lines], I always laugh," Hanlon said. "Scotty Bowman is the greatest coach ever and nobody argues that point. [With Bowman] you never knew who you were playing with from minute to minute. They say, 'What a mastermind Scotty is because you never know when so-and-so is coming out because you don't know the lines that are playing together.' When you take other teams that for whatever reason you are losing, they look and say, 'Well maybe there is not continuity with the lines.' "