- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 1, 2009

BOSTON | There have been a couple of quirky endings to games between the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins in the past two seasons, but this one stands out from the rest.

Alexander Semin, who said he was tired despite being all of 22 seconds into overtime, fired the puck from beyond the blue line and turned to skate to the Caps’ bench Saturday afternoon at a sold-out TD Banknorth Garden.

As it turned out, he saw his teammates pouring onto the ice toward him. Semin’s shot fooled Tim Thomas and squirted past the Boston goaltender for the game-winning goal in a 4-3 victory for the Caps.

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“I was tired, and I try to just shoot the puck in the zone and go change,” Semin said through an interpreter. “I was a little surprised, but sometimes it happens.”

Added Caps coach Bruce Boudreau: “I have no idea. Nine times out of 10 he’ll try to deke four guys before he shoots it [in the zone], so that’s a blessing.”

Semin’s 70-foot blast gave the Caps their third win in four tries (3-0-1) against the conference-leading Bruins and cut Boston’s lead over Washington for the top spot in the East to eight points.

The shot appeared to suddenly rise before glancing off Thomas’ glove and ending up in the net just inside the far post.

“That doesn’t happen very often,” Thomas said. “I mean, that was one of the luckiest shots I’ve ever seen. … It was about three inches off the ice until about halfway to me, and then it just started to lift and I missed it or I got a good piece of it. What originally started out as a pad save turned into a glove save, and I kind of missed it. … From that far away I should have it anyways, but I really don’t expect that kind of stuff to happen.”

It also helped erase the sour memory of yielding the lead for the third time in the game with 4:37 left in regulation.

Members of Washington’s organization spoke Friday after practice of the psychological advantage a third win against the Bruins might provide should these two teams meet in the Eastern Conference finals, but Boston coach Claude Julien doesn’t quite see it that way.

“I’ve heard them say they’re in our heads. They do a lot of talking,” Julien said. “I don’t think they do a lot of research.”

Julien was referencing his team’s results last season against Montreal: The Canadiens beat the Bruins eight times in the regular season, but Boston took three games in the first-round series between the two teams.

“They’re one-goal games, could have gone either way,” Julien said. “If anything, it’s two good teams going at each other, but by all means, I don’t think that they scare us to that point.”

Nicklas Backstrom opened the scoring 3:36 into the first period with a power-play goal. Backstrom tapped home a rebound for his 17th of the season.

It was Backstrom’s slashing penalty that led to Boston’s third goal, forcing overtime. Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara beat goalie Jose Theodore to the short side with a shot from the left circle.

Backstrom was also in the penalty box last month when David Krejci’s shot bounced in off Caps defenseman Shaone Morrisonn to give the Bruins a 3-2 overtime win the last time these teams met in Boston.

“We had some luck, and we had some good penalty killing,” Backstrom said. “Absolutely [I feel better now] - I have bad memories from last time we were here.”

After Matt Hunwick tied the game at 1-1, Alex Ovechkin put the Caps back in front at 8:48 of the second. He caused a turnover to keep the puck in the offensive zone and eventually beat Thomas with a blistering wrist shot to the short side, much to the All-Star netminder’s disbelief. It was Ovechkin’s league-leading 45th goal of the year.

Savard’s line answered again, this time needing only 18 seconds. He fed Phil Kessel, who cut to the net unmarked on a rush, for an easy one-timer to level the score at two.

Tomas Fleischmann, who had one goal in his past 17 games, was the recipient of a lucky bounce to give the Caps a 3-2 lead. With his team on the power play, Fleischmann tried to send a diagonal pass from behind the goal line to Ovechkin, but it hit defenseman Dennis Wideman’s skate and went past Thomas.

Boudreau said Ovechkin was wide-open and likely to score had Fleischmann’s pass made it past Wideman. As for what this victory means with an eye toward the playoffs?

“I don’t think it gives us any advantage, but it does give us the thought that over the course of four games we’ve been able to compete with maybe the best team in the league,” he said. “If we’re lucky enough to get there, it will probably be a good series.”

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