Alexander Semin’s prodigious talent makes him one of the Washington Capitals’ most effective players. It also is why he can be one of their most maddening.
The veteran winger can elicit praise and curses in the same breath. When he is engaged and playing well, the Capitals’ fortunes often follow suit. When he is down, the team feels it, too.
The Capitals can rejoice, then. Their veteran left-winger seems to be heating up at playoff time. The latest evidence was his stunning power-play goal that lifted Washington to a 2-1 victory over the Boston Bruins at Verizon Center on Thursday night and evened this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series at two games apiece.
“You need your top goal scorers to score,” Capitals coach Dale Hunter said. “It highlights what he can do with the puck. He has great skill, and if you give him some room, he can bury it.”
Semin’s moment of brilliance broke a 1-1 tie with 1 minute, 17 seconds remaining in the second period.
Keith Aucoin began with the puck outside the left circle and passed to Semin down low. Semin skated out with the puck, trading places with Aucoin. From there, he calmly inched his way toward the circle.
With Boston All-Star defenseman Zdeno Chara nearby, Semin fired a wrist shot that left a trail of fire as it blazed past goalie Tim Thomas’ glove, high into the goal.
“I’ll just say that every game is different,” the understated Semin said. “You approach and play every game different. Today, I just decided to shoot it, and I scored.”
His teammates described it more aptly.
“It was a sick goal,” forward Alex Ovechkin said.
“It’s unbelievable,” forward Marcus Johansson added. “A shot like that, there was not even anyone in front.”
Even Bruins coach Claude Julien was impressed. “Couldn’t have asked for a better shot,” he said.
Or better timing, on the whole.
Semin scored for the second straight game. The seven-year veteran now has four goals in Washington’s seven games this month, including the regular season. Compare that to only two goals in 15 March contests. Semin is red hot.
“He has scored big goals for us down to the stretch to get us in playoffs,” Hunter said. “He was blocking shots like the rest of the guys that are going down. You know he cares about winning and losing, and he’s battling. That’s what we need from him.”
That Semin’s goal came on the power play is another auspicious sign as the series heads back to Boston for Game 5 on Saturday. Semin has both of Washington’s power play goals in this series.
The Capitals are now 2-for-12 with the man advantage, while Boston hasn’t scored on any of its 12 power plays.
“The power play is a big key for us,” Ovechkin said. “We moved the puck well, I think. We had good chances, and finally it goes in.”
Semin’s recent hot streak is a bit ironic, considering his name was one of the most frequently mentioned at the trade deadline earlier this year. The polarizing winger is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
If these are his final games in a Capitals sweater, he’s providing one last reminder of his special scoring talent.
Forward Brooks Laich has seen the flashes since the 2005 season. He was asked after Thursday’s game how many players in the league could have scored such a spectacular goal.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m just glad we have one that can.”
• Rich Campbell can be reached at email@example.com.
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