- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Regardless of whom the Washington Capitals are missing, they continue to find ways to defeat the Ottawa Senators.

Alexander Semin had a pair of goals and Tomas Fleischmann set up two as the Caps completed an improbable season sweep of the Eastern Conference-leading Senators 4-2 in front of 15,261 last night at Verizon Center.

“That’s the depth of our team,” defenseman Mike Green said. “One guy goes down, and another guy steps up and elevates his game. If you are going to go far … you are going to need that.”

Michael Nylander, the team’s second-leading scorer, is lost for the season with a torn rotator cuff. Captain Chris Clark was missing for the 19th time in 20 games because of a strained groin tendon. Defenseman Brian Pothier has missed four consecutive games with his second concussion in a little less than a year.

Still, the Caps knocked off the Senators for the fourth time this season — and third in 17 days — to improve to 13-7-4 since Bruce Boudreau was named coach. Washington also avoided back-to-back regulation losses, which has yet to happen in the Boudreau Era.

“We’re fighting here,” said Caps goaltender Brent Johnson, who made 26 saves in his first win at Verizon since Nov. 6, 2006, against Ottawa. “We’ve got a lot work [left]. We have to play catch up here, and it isn’t getting any easier.”

With the score tied 2-2, Alex Ovechkin scored his 34th goal of the year — and league-leading 14th extra-man tally — midway through the final period. Fleischmann hit a cutting Brooks Laich, and his wrist shot was stopped, but Ovechkin collected the rebound and snapped home the go-ahead goal.

One game after struggling against Philadelphia, Semin scored his second of the night and ninth of the season a little less than three minutes later. Fleischmann, who was a healthy scratch against the Flyers, kept the play alive with an interception and shot before sending the puck back in front from behind the goal. Semin was there to put the bouncing puck past Ottawa goaltender Ray Emery for a 4-2 lead.

“[Fleischmann] played well. I told him he played well the four previous games. It was unfortunate, but it was a numbers game,” Boudreau said. “I think I went out of my way to let him know I have a lot of faith in him.”

Green opened the scoring 47 seconds into the second period. With the Caps on a power play, Viktor Kozlov — in Nylander’s place on the top extra-man unit — sent a diagonal pass from behind the goal to the right of Emery to a cutting Green for a one-timer.

It was Green’s 13th of the year and 10th in 24 games playing for Boudreau. Without Nylander, Boudreau went with a righty-righty-lefty combination up front of Kozlov and Semin along the wall and Nicklas Backstrom in the middle of the ice.

Before it was Nylander, a left-handed shot, and Backstrom along the boards with Semin floating through the defense.

“It was a great pass by Kozlov,” Green said. “He sees the ice so well. He wasn’t even looking at me when he passed it.”

It took Ottawa more than 33 minutes to generate any offense against Johnson, but the Senators struck twice in 82 seconds to take the lead.

Defenseman Andrei Meszaros’ first shot was blocked by Laich, but it went right back to him, and his second offering was redirected past Johnson by Dean McAmmond 13:41 into the period.

A little more than a minute later defenseman Wade Redden jammed home a loose puck after Patrick Eaves’ shot was denied.

Ottawa’s lead was short lived. Semin intercepted an outlet pass from Joe Corvo and authored a highlight-reel goal 23 seconds after Redden’s tally. Semin stole the puck near the right point, went around Redden with an inside-out move and beat Emery with a similar deke. Once Emery went for the fake, Semin casually flipped a forehand shot just underneath the crossbar for his eighth marker of the season.

“It was sick move,” Ovechkin said. “I think it was very important goal for us. They score goals, and then we score right away. We don’t give up, and that line, the Semin line, I think won the game tonight.”

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