Semin leads Ovechkin-less Capitals to win over Predators

By Tim Hipps
PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

WASHINGTON (Ticker) — If it’s not one NHL Russian sensation
named Alexander in Washington, it must be another.

Playing for the first time in 204 games without reigning Hart
Trophy winner Alex Ovechkin, the Washington Capitals received a
goal and an assist from Alexander Semin in a 4-3 shootout
victory over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday.

Michael Nylander scored the winning goal in the fourth round of
the shootout and Jose Theodore turned aside 23 shots.

The league’s leading scorer, Semin also scored in the bonus
format as he completed the franchise’s best October since 2004.

With 16 points, Semin (eight goals, eight assists) surpassed
last season’s 15-point effort by Ovechkin, who saw his 203
consecutive-games streak come to an end as he returned to his
native Russia on Monday to visit his ailing grandfather.

Semin, speaking through an interpreter, downplayed the
significance of his hot start.

“It is my job to do these things – to help the team win, to
score, to give passes,” he said. “I felt like I had to amend a
mistake earlier when I did not score, but there was a good pass
to me and all I had to do was shoot the puck in the net.”

Ovechkin’s future status will be determined on a day-to-day
basis. The Capitals’ next game is Saturday in Buffalo.

“(Ovechkin) is obviously away, dealing with some stuff and we
wish him the best,” Capitals center Brooks Laich said. “But at
the same time, we can look at it two ways. We can look at it
like we’re missing the star of our team or we can look at it as
a challenge. We’ve always talked here that we believe we’re a
good hockey team. It’s not Alex Ovechkin is a great hockey
player and the Washington Capitals. It’s a good hockey team.”

Semin said he received a text message from Ovechkin shortly
before the game started.

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“He sent a text message to me and asked that I say ‘hi’ to all
the guys and that he is with us,” Semin said. “I was very
surprised when I saw it. … He didn’t set any date, so I don’t
know. Whenever he comes back, he comes back.”

After each team had its first attempt stopped in the shootout,
Semin beat goaltender Dan Ellis to put the Capitals ahead before
defenseman Ville Koistinen responded in the third round.

Nylander then answered in the fourth round before Theodore
denied Martin Erat to seal the win.

Semin recorded his eighth goal of the season 1:58 into the third
period to give Washington a 3-2 lead.

“He’s been really, really good all year, and it’s great to see,”
Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It’s great to see his
emotion when other linemates and teammates are scoring. I
really believe he is coming of age now. He is a really quiet
guy, but on the ice, he’s coming out of his shell and leading
this team right now.”

But Nashville dominated the final session, outshooting the
Capitals, 15-3, as Arnott netted his second tally of the evening
with 6:36 remaining in the third period.

Viktor Kozlov gave the Capitals the lead midway through the
first period, but the advantage was short-lived as Koistinen
leveled the contest just 1:46 later.

Washington, which owned a 19-4 advantage in shots in the opening
period, claimed a 2-1 advantage with 4:22 left in the session on
Dave Steckel’s shorthanded tally.

“Semin made a great play,” Steckel said. “He drew everyone
together and looked for the opportunity and made a great pass.
I didn’t even have to move my stick. When you play with him all
night, it’s easy to get passes like that. Right now, he’s
carrying this team.”

J.P. Dumont had three assists for Nashville.