- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 22, 2011

Before Tuesday night, the last time Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin scored in the same game was Oct. 30, 2010.

“It’s tough when you hear that stat,” Backstrom said. “But it’s good. It happens sometimes.”

It’s also not a coincidence that before Tuesday night, Nov. 4 (a 5-1 win at Carolina) was the last time the Washington Capitals dominated as thoroughly as they did in their 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators.

It’s not just about production; it’s about what it means to the team when Ovechkin, Backstrom and Semin are humming.

“When your top-end guys score, confidence goes up,” coach Dale Hunter said, “and for the rest of the bench because you see our best guys are going.”

Ovechkin, Backstrom and Semin earn a combined $21.7 million this season but had a total of just 66 points before Tuesday night’s breakthrough. And while Backstrom has shouldered much of the load and should be ticketed for the NHL All-Star Game, the other two “Young Guns” forwards were considered disappointments.

But their combined performance against Nashville — a tone-setting goal from Ovechkin, what turned out to be the game-winner from Backstrom and a clincher from Semin — showed the team’s potential when its stars play like stars.

“It’s very good. They’re three of our biggest scorers,” center Marcus Johansson said. “Having them score is a relief for the other guys. It’s the same thing when someone else scores — it’s relief off them. But it’s very nice to see them score.”

Going into Friday night’s game at the New Jersey Devils, the Capitals are expected to again be without defenseman Mike Green (groin), who hasn’t played since their last trip to Newark on Nov. 11. That has meant more minutes and expanded roles on the blue line for Dennis Wideman, John Carlson and Karl Alzner.

But up front, the Caps have had to compensate for what Green adds to the offense. He had six points in eight games, and the threat of his shot from the point or a backdoor goal again opened up spots for the forwards.

Perhaps Ovechkin getting rolling is the most vital part to winning — something that should come as little surprise. The Capitals are 15-4 when Ovechkin gets a point (he has 23) and 2-10-1 when he doesn’t.

As for it being well over a year since Ovechkin, Backstrom and Semin had scored in the same game — a win, by the way - the captain seemed to enjoy a return to that form.

“It was pretty fun,” he said. “I think we deserved to win.”

It’s unrealistic to expect all three to produce goals every game the rest of the way, but increased production from the Caps’ highest-paid players could be what it takes to turn the season around.

• Stephen Whyno can be reached at swhyno@washingtontimes.com.

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