courtesy of ‘bridgetds’
Alexander Semin scored a hat trick and added two assists as the Caps downed the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-3 last night at Verizon Center. Semin scored all three of his goals in the third period to break open a close game. It was a battle of high-scoring players as Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Semin faced off against the equally potent Tampa Bay trio of Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, and league scoring leader Steven Stamkos. The super stars shone through as five of the six players tallied two or more points in the game.
Lecavalier opened the game by ringing a shot off the post behind Michal Neuvirth in the first minute of the game to set the tempo. Tampa Bay out shot and out hustled the Caps in the first period, getting many more quality scoring chances. Tampa Bay finally broke through when the fourth line capitalized on an odd-man rush. Teddy Purcell punched in a juicy rebound on a sharp angle shot by Sean Bergenheim. It was the 12th time in 16 games that the Caps have given up the first goal; the Caps have been outscored 17-7 in the first period this season. “The first period wasn’t so good,” said coach Bruce Boudreau. “We didn’t work hard enough. We have to find a way to start games better.”
On the other hand, the Caps have outscored opponents 17-2 in the second period in the past six games. Two minutes into the middle frame, Tom Poti notched his first goal of the season, picking up a rebound and lifting a backhand shot into an open net to even the score. It was Poti’s first game after missing eight games due to injury. Two minutes later, Mike Knuble put the Caps in front 2-1, reaching back from behind the net to tap in a loose puck on the edge of the crease.
The Caps were whistled for four straight penalties in the first 40 minutes. The extended time on the PK finally caught up with the Caps as the Lightning were able to even the score on their fifth power play early in the third period. Tampa Bay’s Ryan Malone was left alone in the slot and knocked in a rebound of a point shot from St. Louis to tie the score at 2-2.
Moments later, Semin – who was the most electrifying player on the ice all night – got things going for the Caps by drawing a penalty. It took only 16 seconds on the power play for Semin to muscle his way into the slot and snap a wrist shot so hard the rebound popped up over Lightning goalie Dan Ellis and into the net for a 3-2 lead.
The game seemed in the balance until Backstrom fed Semin for a one-timer over Ellis’s shoulder to extend the lead to 4-2 half way through the third. Stamkos brought the Lightning to within a goal when he was left alone in front of the net and beat Michal Neuvirth high to make it 4-3. It was Stamkos’ 14th goal of the season.
But Semin was just getting warmed up. Ovechkin sprung him for a partial break away, and when Semin wasn’t able to score, he alertly corralled the rebound and found Ovechkin all alone in the slot for quick shot to the lower corner to make it 5-3. Semin hit an empty net with 15 seconds left to close out the scoring and bring hats raining down onto the ice. It was his second hat-trick of the season. “It wasn’t anything special,” said Semin after the game. “I was just going out there and playing like I do every other game. The most important thing is for the team to win and that’s what happened tonight.” Enough said.