- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 13, 2008

RALEIGH, N.C. | Here’s something positive for the Carolina Hurricanes - thanks to the new NHL scheduling model, they will face Alexander Semin only four more times this season instead of six.

Semin continued his dominance Wednesday night - both this season and in his career against Carolina - with two goals and three assists to help the Washington Capitals crush the Hurricanes 5-1 at RBC Center.

He wasn’t alone with a big game on the scoresheet. Nicklas Backstrom had four points, including his first goal of the season, and Alex Ovechkin had a goal and two assists.

“We controlled the game, controlled the puck and probably never play in our zone - maybe there was a couple of times,” Ovechkin said. “We create some moments, and we have a beautiful game. … It was great game for our line and for whole team.”

Added coach Bruce Boudreau: “[The top line] can be cute if they’re going to get five goals a night. You can tell the potential they have when they’re on top of their game, and I think all three of them were tonight.”

The win is the team’s fourth straight and puts the Caps in sole possession of first place in the Southeast Division with 20 points, but it did come with a cost. Goaltender Brent Johnson, who has made five straight starts, left the game after the first period with a hip injury and was replaced by Jose Theodore.

Johnson said he hurt his hip during a Carolina power play late in the period, but he does not think the problem is serious.

Semin’s three first-period points vaulted him past Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin into the NHL scoring lead, and a goal in the second pushed him ahead of Buffalo’s Thomas Vanek for tops in the league in goals.

“I hope he is going to play the same way,” Ovechkin said. “If he can play the same, he is going to be the best player in the league, I think.”

In 21 career games against the Hurricanes, Semin now has 17 goals and 28 points - his best numbers against any NHL team. Six days ago, Semin scored the game-tying and winning goals against Carolina in the final three minutes of a 3-2 victory, but he didn’t wait as long to put this contest out of reach.

Ovechkin got the Caps on the board first thanks to a great play from Semin. Hurricanes defenseman Tim Gleason tried to make a point-to-point pass, but Semin anticipated the play and intercepted it to start a two-on-one.

He slipped a pass to Ovechkin past a diving Gleason, and the reigning league MVP deked to his forehand and scored his fourth goal of the season and second in as many games at 5:11.

Semin notched his 12th marker at 10:32. Backstrom won on an offensive zone faceoff back to defenseman Mike Green, who fired a shot wide of the net. The puck caromed off the boards behind the cage and kicked out the other side, where Semin waited to fire it past an unsuspecting Michael Leighton.

Carolina responded 79 seconds later. Hurricanes center Rod Brind’Amour won a faceoff back to defenseman Joni Pitkanen, who sent a shot wide, but Scott Walker redirected the ricochet from the other side of the net.

Mike Green regained the two-goal lead less than three minutes later. Semin sent him a pass from the left half-wall through the defense to the right point, where Green’s shot beat Leighton through a screen.

The Hurricanes had a chance to cut into the lead late in the period with a five-on-three for 78 seconds, but Eric Staal missed three chances from close range, and the Caps killed off the infractions.

Semin gave the Caps a three-goal margin midway through the second period. He took a hooking penalty in the offensive zone at 7:38 but made up for it shortly after leaving the box.

Ovechkin found him with a cross-ice pass, and Semin ripped a one-timer through Leighton for goal No. 13. Semin now has 27 points in 15 games - last season he scored his 27th point Feb. 13.

Theodore had not played since a 5-0 loss at Buffalo on Nov. 1 but stopped all 13 shots he faced in relief.

“It is not the best scenario, but as a pro it is not my first time,” Theodore said. “When you make those first couple of saves, you get into a rhythm. … Tonight I made a few saves, and then after that I was building on that, and my confidence came up.”

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