Well, now it appears the Capitals have two players who fit that description, because Alexander Semin is back in the NHL and taking some of the load off his teammate’s shoulders.
Ovechkin broke a tie with two third-period goals, Semin had a hat trick, and Washington beat the Carolina Hurricanes 5-2 Saturday night to hand the Stanley Cup champions their third consecutive loss.
“After I thank God at night for having a great wife,” Capitals coach Glen Hanlon said, “I say a quiet prayer for having those two guys on my team.”
Perhaps frustrated by beginning his sophomore year with five scoreless periods, Ovechkin went into a prolonged celebration after putting the puck in the net 8:04 into the third period to put Washington ahead 3-2.
He kissed his right glove, pumped it, then let out a yell. He was surrounded by teammates for hugs and backslaps, then skated over to the bench, where he shouted again as he looked up and saw himself on the overhead video board.
“I hold myself accountable,” Carolina goalie Cam Ward said. “That’s a stop I’ve got to make, especially that time of the game.”
A second shy of exactly five minutes later, Ovechkin scored again, this time redirecting defenceman Brian Pothier’s shot from the slot on a power play to make it 4-2.
“Everybody played together – that’s why we beat the Stanley Cup champions,” said Ovechkin, who took a career-high 15 shots. “First period, I played awful. Terrible. Second period, I told myself: Shoot everything.”
Semin, who scored in each period, added the finishing touch with 2:47 left in the game on a close-range goal. Pothier collected one of his three assists on that one, which gave Semin his first three-goal game in 54 NHL contests.
“I scored three tonight – but I could have scored more,” Semin said through a translator.
It capped quite a home opener for the Capitals, who finished 27th out of 30 NHL teams last season.
Andrew Ladd and Niclas Wallin scored for Carolina, which has yet to win as it opens defence of its first league title. The Hurricanes were playing their third game in four nights after consecutive losses at home, as they raised their championship banner and showed off the Stanley Cup.
“We’re kidding ourselves. We’re taking bad penalties instead of doing the work. We’re mouthing off instead of doing the work. And selfish acts are costing us games,” Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. “It needs to be corrected, and it will be.”
Shortly after Ovechkin’s second goal, he went down when Carolina defenceman Tim Gleason used his left skate to cut the Russian’s left leg out from under him. Ovechkin, who had just hit Eric Staal, dropped to the ice and stayed down for a few minutes.
But he eventually returned and was the first to greet Semin with a hug after the hat trick was completed.
“He played not fair,” Ovechkin said, referring to Gleason, but added that he felt fine.
Ovechkin is 21, a year younger than the less-heralded Semin, who was picked in the first round of the 2002 NHL draft and scored 10 goals in 52 games with the Capitals in the 2003-04 season.
But when Washington wanted Semin to report to a minor-league club during the NHL lockout, he instead went to play in Russia, and the Capitals sued to get him to return.
Finally, in April, Semin agreed to rejoin the Capitals – and they couldn’t be happier. He has four goals through two games.
“He was doing those things when he was 19 years old,” Hanlon said. “It’s only two games into the season, but we’ve seen that before. Now, more so than the last time he was here, he’s more ‘North Americanized’ in that he’s willing to shoot a little bit more and not be looking to pass quite so much.”
Notes: Capitals G Olie Kolzig made 25 saves. … Carolina opened a seven-game road trip. … Ovechkin had 52 goals and 106 points last season. … The Capitals recalled LW Tomas Fleischmann from Hershey of the AHL before the game, and sent him back afterward.