- The Washington Times - Friday, October 31, 2003

The word at practice all week for the Washington Capitals was that winning cures all your ills.

The Caps paid attention and broke a six-game losing streak and an eight-game winless streak last night with a defensively solid 2-1 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers at MCI Center. Offensively, a lot of work remains to be done.

The winning goal came late in the first period, a highlight sequence as rookie Alexander Semin put some magic moves on the Thrashers defense and gave suffering Washington fans something to look forward to. It was the Russian’s first goal on this side of the Atlantic.

Attendance was announced at 11,534, but many of the spectators apparently came dressed as empty seats on Halloween.

Semin speaks almost no English, and multitalented and multilingual Peter Bondra had to be summoned to translate. There was really no need for the Slovak to be present, because the huge grin on Semin’s face said it all.

“The goalie forced him to make that play, the only chance he had,” Bondra said, paraphrasing Semin’s response.

Coach Bruce Cassidy said he made changes in the team’s game day routine yesterday morning in an effort to break the negative streaks. Whatever he did, including inserting Semin in the lineup, it worked.

“We had an optional [skate],” Cassidy said. “We sort of said we’re not going to talk about our record [now 2-7-1] or what we did yesterday — we’re going to talk about what we’re going to do tonight against Atlanta.”

The Caps outshot Atlanta 38-20, and the score might easily have been 12-1 except for a wholesale series of missed chances by Washington.

The Caps took a lead into the third period for the first time since opening night, but it was only a one-goal margin, and that was the disquieting part. The Caps had numerous chances to open a wide gap between themselves and Atlanta but failed to take advantage. Thrashers goalie Pasi Nurminen had something to do with that, but poor shot selection and lousy marksmanship played a bigger part.

The Caps fell behind for the seventh time in 10 games on a goal awarded to Slava Kozlov, although it appeared budding superstar Ilya Kovalchuk actually scored. There was a pass through the crease on a power play, and the puck apparently deflected off a skate in front of Kolzig and glanced past him into the net a little more than five minutes into the game.

Washington evened the match two minutes later on a rare bad play by Nurminen. Matt Pettinger hauled the puck down the right boards, curled toward the net and shot through a slight screen. Nurminen didn’t have his pads closed, and the Caps’ left wing found the opening, banking the puck in off the left pipe.

Semin’s score came next, perhaps giving Washington fans a glimpse of what may lie ahead.

Robert Lang took the draw and pulled it back to the 19-year-old at the red line. He took the puck and started down the right side, curling toward the net as he crossed the center of the right circle. Semin approached Nurminen, deked one way and went the other, putting the puck on his backhand and slipping it past the goalie. The small crowd responded with a huge ovation.

It was Semin’s first goal in the NHL and came in his fourth game. It was also the fourth straight game in which the Caps have scored a power-play goal.


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