- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 15, 2009

It was a wild night for Alexander Semin and a satisfactory ending for the Washington Capitals.

Semin had a goal, three assists and a shootout tally to help the Caps to a 5-4 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night at sold-out Verizon Center.

The 25-year-old has 19 goals and 34 points in 23 career games against Carolina - by far the most against any team. His career high for one game is five points, which he collected Nov. 12 against the Hurricanes at RBC Center.

“He’s good - he’s in real good shape right now,” said Alex Ovechkin, who clinched the win by following Semin with a goal in the shootout. “He is tremendous player when he feels great. It is very hard to stop him.”

While he was fantastic on the offensive end, Semin and linemates Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom had difficulties in their own end. Semin and defenseman Mike Green were on the ice for all eight goals - one more than Carolina goalie Cam Ward.

“[Semin] was where the action was, that’s for sure,” Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Offensively, he was fabulous.”

The Caps collected two points and pushed their lead on the Hurricanes to 13 points in the Southeast Division, but they also blew a two-goal lead and won only because of goaltender Jose Theodore’s valiant effort. Washington’s netminder gave up four goals on 32 shots but turned aside all six he faced in overtime and thwarted numerous breakaways throughout the up-and-down contest.

“He wasn’t just there in the overtime - he was great all night,” Boudreau said. “If he wasn’t on top of his game, they would’ve had six or seven.”

Semin pushed Washington’s lead to 3-1 just 90 seconds into the middle period. After Brooks Laich tried unsuccessfully to put in the rebound from an Ovechkin point shot, Semin collected the puck and then spun around and ripped a shot along the ice for his 29th of the year.

The Caps nearly made it a three-goal advantage on a rare five-on-one break, but Green’s shot was stopped and Eric Staal scored on the ensuing rush. Theodore stopped Ray Whitney’s breakaway, but Staal beat both Green and Ovechkin down the ice and scooped in the rebound for his 33rd of the season.

Backstrom restored Washington’s two-goal advantage at 12:27 of the second. He put home a wrist shot after a perfect pass from Michael Nylander for his 19th of the year, the team’s third power-play marker of the night.

“We have a lot of good confidence,” Backstrom said. “We’re moving the puck pretty good; we have a lot of skilled guys out there. It makes it easy for everybody.”

Whitney again closed the gap to one with 7.3 seconds left in the period. He found an opening in the middle of the Caps’ defense during a prolonged delayed penalty, and Cole found him.

Niclas Wallin tied the contest midway through the third. The Hurricanes continued to dictate the play, but Theodore got the Caps to the shootout and then stopped Tuomo Ruutu and Jussi Jokinen to preserve the victory.

“We left [Theodore] out to dry a few times,” forward Eric Fehr said. “He made some big saves for us. We just let up too many key opportunities for them, but he was great when we needed him.”

Cole put the Hurricanes on the board first midway through the opening period, but Green tied the score at 1-1 just 66 seconds later. Nicklas Backstrom made a nifty move to carry the puck into the offensive zone, then slipped it along the right wall to Semin. Green corralled Semin’s pass as he pinched in from the right point and whipped a shot into the top right corner of the net in one motion for his 24th marker of the season.

Later in the period, Green helped the Caps take the lead. He kept a bouncing puck in the offensive zone on a power play and then sent a slap pass in Ovechkin’s direction. The puck hit Carolina’s Joni Pitkanen, but Ovechkin’s second swipe at it resulted in his 49th tally of the season.

“I’m not saying we played a bad game at all, but we had some meltdowns - and when you have meltdowns against great players, you usually pay the price,” Boudreau said. “And we did.”

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