WASHINGTON – There’s something about Tampa Bay that brings out the best in Alexander Semin.
Semin scored three times in a 4:29 span in the second period for his NHL-high third hat trick of the season in the Washington Capitals’ 6-0 victory over the Lightning on Friday. In two games against the Lightning this season, Semin has twice scored three goals in a period.
“He’s an unbelievably skilled guy,” said Nicklas Backstrom, who assisted on Semin’s final two goals. “I don’t know if I’ve seen anyone more skilled than him, to be honest with you. He can shoot from every angle. That’s pretty impressive. I’m just glad he’s on our team.”
Semin entered the season with three career hat tricks, a total he’s doubled in a 35-day period.
“I haven’t changed anything, and I’m not going to change anything,” Semin said through a translator. “I’m just going to continue doing the same thing.”
Semin’s scoring was the highlight, but the NHL-leading Capitals got a good performance out of just about everyone on the roster as they extended their Southeast Division lead over the Lightning to six points.
Semyon Varlamov made 17 saves in his second start after missing more than a month because of a groin injury. John Carlson, John Erskine and Tom Poti also scored, and Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson each had assists.
“I don’t know if it was perfect, but it was as good as we’ve played all year,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. “When you win 6-0, you can’t say anything negative about anybody.”
Tampa Bay entered on a five-game winning streak, but was left reeling after failing to win six straight for the first time since an eight-game streak in 2004.
“We just got outworked today, plain and simple,” Lightning forward Steven Stamkos said. “There’s nothing more to say.”
All three of Semin’s goals came from near the bottom of the left circle. He started his scoring binge at 6:52 of the second period on a 2-on-1 break, scoring off Marcus Johansson’s cross-ice pass.
Semin struck again at 8:56 on a power play after a pass from Backstrom found him low in the left circle. The score gave the Capitals a 4-0 lead and led Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher to make a goalie change, replacing starter Mike Smith with Dan Ellis.
After another pair of Tampa Bay penalties gave Washington a two-man advantage, Backstrom sent a cross-ice pass through the crease.
“There was a little hole there between the skates and the pads,” Backstrom said. “I was lucky I could find that one.”
Semin received it below the circle and buried the shot without hesitation for his 17th goal of the season at 11:21. Semin pumped his fist after the score, which gave Washington a 5-0 lead.
“We talked about taking him away,” Tampa Bay’s Mike Lundin said. “We didn’t get to him. He’s deadly from that spot.”
During the post-goal delay to clean hats off the ice, Semin was featured on the video scoreboard and broke into a broad grin when he looked up.
“He uses his chances,” Ovechkin said. “He finds open space. You can see he just rips it.”
Semin’s scoring wasn’t the only thing the fans had to cheer about in the second period. Late the period Washington penalties gave Tampa Bay a two-man advantage for nearly 1 1/2 minutes. The Capitals safely weathered the penalties and the fans gave them a standing ovation as the teams returned to even strength.
Several Capitals said the game was important to establish that they’re still at the top of the heap in the Southeast Division.
“They’d won five in a row, and sometimes those are the teams you want to catch because they’re due for a bad game,” Boudreau said.
NOTES: Washington RW Mike Knuble returned a week after a puck to the face broke his jaw and kept him out for three games. D Mike Green missed his second straight game with an undisclosed injury. The team lists him as day-to-day. … The Capitals recalled D Brian Fahey from Hershey of the AHL. He earned his first career point with an assist on Erskine’s goal. … The Lightning played street hockey in front of the White House on Friday morning.