- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 14, 2003

MONTREAL — Backup goalie Sebastien Charpentier of the Washington Capitals fulfilled the dream of every kid who grows up in hockey-mad Quebec last night: He played his first game in Montreal.

Unfortunately, the homecoming went sour quickly as the Canadiens scored on five of their first 19 shots to pound the Caps 5-1 in their home opener at Bell Centre.

The Caps, playing for the fourth time in sixth nights, were never sharp. Neither was the 26-year-old Charpentier, who spends most games watching Olie Kolzig man the nets and who was making just his 16th NHL start.

“It was a tough night,” said Charpentier, who grew up in Drummondville rooting not for the province’s beloved Canadiens, but for their former archrival Quebec Nordiques (now the Colorado Avalanche). “I was a little more nervous than usual being back home [in front of 15 relatives and friends]. There were a couple of shots I wish I could have back.”

Things started out fine for Charpentier when he made a good stop on former Cap Richard Zednik at the right post 5:02 into the first. However, less than a minute later, Andreas Dackell rushed the Washington net, and the goalie made the save but gave up the rebound. Ex-Cap Joe Juneau pounced on the loose puck and fed it back to Dackell, who fired a shot over Charpentier’s glove from the lower right circle at 6:00.

Meanwhile, Washington (1-2-1) failed to take advantage of two power plays in the first 10 minutes and barely tested Montreal goalie Jose Theodore.

Rookie defenseman Steve Eminger left the Caps short-handed with a holding penalty at 14:08. Washington was three seconds from killing the penalty when Juneau and Michael Ryder set up Yanic Perreault for a high shot that eluded Charpentier.

The Caps appeared to be in danger of getting blown out, but just 40 seconds later Alexander Semin played the puck off the rear boards and deftly passed to linemate Robert Lang, who shot it between Theodore and the left post to make it 2-1.

The assist was the first point for the talented 19-year-old Russian rookie right wing, who made his NHL debut. Coach Bruce Cassidy plans to bring the baby-faced Semin along slowly as he adjusts to North American culture, the English language and the more physical NHL style of play.

Semin, who looked good in notching four assists in six preseason games, replaced the suspended Mike Grier on the second line and was alongside Lang and Dainius Zubrus. Grier, suspended one game by the NHL for throwing an elbow that injured Toronto’s Robert Reichel late in Monday’s 2-2 tie at Air Canada Centre, will be back in the lineup when Washington’s trip continues Friday in Dallas. Defenseman Brendan Witt also is expected to return after missing the past two games with a facial injury suffered in Saturday’s 4-3 loss to Atlanta.

Perreault put the Canadiens ahead 3-1 just 19 seconds into the second period with a shot from the right circle after Ryder and Donald Audette kept the puck deep in the Washington zone.

Matters only got uglier for the Caps midway through the second period. Kip Miller went to the ice to try to block Stephane Quintal’s shot. However, Quintal was able to throw the puck on net, where it caromed off Washington defenseman Josef Boumedienne — battling former Cap Jan Bulis down low — and past the screened Charpentier for a 4-1 lead at 9:15.

A penalty for too many men on the ice left the Caps short-handed at 12:53. After Theodore robbed Brian Sutherby on a 2-on-1 with Bondra, Charpentier finally stoned Perreault. However just as the teams returned to even strength, Perreault raced into the Washington zone and dropped the puck for Audette, who beat Charpentier through the five hole.

“Charpy could have been better, but I’m not going to blame him,” Cassidy said. “The first two goals were scored point-blank from the slot. We had a couple of power plays at the start of the game that we didn’t execute. Our [young] D can be better, but they’re going to struggle for a while. That’s reality. We weren’t very good as a team. There’s not a guy in the room who can tell me that his line or group played a solid hockey game.”

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