Bruce Boudreau couldn’t sense if Alexander Semin was feeling any pressure heading into Game 1 against the New York Rangers. The enigmatic winger hadn’t scored in 15 playoff games dating to 2009 but was doing his best (as usual) to hide his emotions.
Then on Wednesday night, he let it all out, scoring the game-winner in overtime and showing off a different level to his game in the Caps’ 2-1 victory over New York at Verizon Center.
“You can tell as a guy that’s coached Alex for a long time now, it seems, that when he’s on and when he’s into it and when he’s really good,” Boudreau said. “And I thought from the moment we dropped the puck that he wants this. He knows that he hadn’t scored in a while in the playoffs. To commit and get a goal and assist when you win 2-1, I think it’s a true tell of how bad you want it.”
Semin wanted it but also showed off his best and worst on this night. He took an offensive zone hooking penalty, missed some open opportunities but also had a strong defensive game especially in overtime, and of course scored the game-winner.
That came as a result of a good forecheck by linemate Jason Arnott, whose mere presence has appeared to force more effort and intensity out of Semin. For his part, Semin admitted on Monday that it was beneficial to his game to be on the ice with Arnott – and then he rewarded his veteran teammate with a snipe 18:24 into overtime.
“I just saw the puck get intercepted. It’s just a situational play,” Semin said through an interpreter. “I tried to get open and tried to shoot as soon as possible because the defenseman was right there.”
It hit the twine behind Henrik Lundqvist with the force of a guy whose last playoff goal was April 28, 2009 – also against the Rangers.
“I feel great,” Semin said. “We won the game; that’s the most important thing.”
Semin had a part in the Caps’ first goal, too, picking up an assist as Alex Ovechkin whacked away at the puck while it was under Lundqvist. Semin apparently was the first in the building to know it was in.
“I saw Sasha was like screaming, ‘Goal goal,’ so I was excited and started celebrating,” Ovechkin said, flashing his toothless smile.
That goal was a product of putting Ovechkin and Semin together and juggling the lines. But the end result was a much-needed victory for the Caps to take a 1-0 series lead and put a little more distance between themselves and last year’s playoff exit.
Speaking with an interpreter Monday morning, Semin was in full playoff mindset – focused only on this game and not wanting to discuss much else. Asked how he was feeling, he said, “You will see everything on Wednesday.”
What the Caps saw was a guy determined to make his drought and the Caps’ recent lack of playoff success a distant memory.
“The game we played tonight was what we were preparing for all year. They played a great game,” defenseman Mike Green said. “It’s just lucky we have Alexander Semin to score a nice goal.”