RALEIGH, N.C. – If Alexander Semin keeps this up, he might not be the other Alex in Washington for long.
Semin had two goals and three assists to take the NHL scoring lead, and the Capitals routed the Carolina Hurricanes 5-1 on Wednesday night to take sole possession of the Southeast Division lead. “I hope he’s going to play the same way – he’s going to be the best player in the league,” said linemate – and face of the franchise – Alex Ovechkin.
Semin’s linemates also had big nights – Ovechkin had a goal and two assists, and Nicklas Backstrom had a goal and three assists – to help the quick-starting Capitals race out to a 3-1 lead after one period and cruise to their fourth straight victory.
“What can you say about our line? We controlled the game, controlled the puck,” Ovechkin said.
Mike Green added a goal and an assist for Washington.
Scott Walker scored on the power play for Carolina, which was outscored 10-3 in losing two straight at home. The Hurricanes have lost three of four to fall two points behind Washington.
“We’re only fooling ourselves if we think we’re playing the right way now,” Walker said.
The Capitals dominated from start to finish, and Semin had a hand in all five goals. He scored his 13th on a one-time feed from Ovechkin midway through the second period to move one ahead of Buffalo’s Thomas Vanek.
“He’s on a roll right now,” Backstrom said of Semin – who has 27 points, three more than Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin.
Semin’s second multigoal game in six days against the Hurricanes left him with 17 career goals against them – his most against any team.
Jose Theodore stopped 13 shots over the final two periods in relief of Brent Johnson, who made 13 saves but said he injured his hip in the first and did not return after the break.
Michael Leighton had 32 stops for Carolina in place of Cam Ward, who gave up five goals Sunday against Atlanta.
Washington’s two Alexes first teamed up about five minutes in to put the Capitals up 1-0.
Semin stole a cross-ice pass at the blue-line, skated down the right side and fed Ovechkin, who deked and then beat Leighton with a forehand for his fourth goal of the season and 18th of his career against Carolina. The Capitals’ young star now has as many goals in two games (two) as he did during his first 11.
“You can tell the potential that (his top line has) when they’re on top of their game, and I think all three of them were on top of their game tonight,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It was really good to get Ovie a goal early – that pumped the line up.”
Semin added his first goal five minutes later. Green’s slap shot off a draw missed the net and caromed off the back boards to Semin, and he whipped the puck hard and high past Leighton.
Carolina’s only goal came on a similar sequence with about eight minutes left. Joni Pitkanen’s wide slap shot bounced to Walker, who scored from the right of the net. Green made it 3-1 roughly 2 1/2 minutes later, beating a screened Leighton with a slap shot on the power play.
“It’s not a matter of systems or any design out there,” Walker said. “You have to want the puck more than they do. … We’re just not getting it done, plain and simple. It’s not one guy. It’s everybody. We’re all a step behind, and it’s unacceptable.”
Notes: Before the game, the Hurricanes sent C Dwight Helminen back to Albany to make room for Sutter. … Pitkanen was one of three injured players returning to Carolina’s lineup, joining C Brandon Sutter and C Matt Cullen. … The Capitals lead the season series 2-0.