After all, his 2 goals in a span of 2:32 late in the third period rallied the Caps to a much-needed 3-2 victory against the Southeast Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes. But long before Semin's heroics had ignited the hometown faithful inside Verizon Center, there was an unusual sequence of uninterrupted, end-to-end play that most certainly had the 17,874 fans on the edge of their seats.
It began innocently enough, with 13:27 remaining in the third when Carolina's Rod Brind'Amour won an offensive-zone draw against Washington's Boyd Gordon. It was 1 of Brind'Amour's game-high 12 face-off wins (on 18 draws) in the contest.
It was at that point linesmen Steve Miller and Tim Nowak and referees Eric Furlatt and Greg Kimmerly decided to put their whistles in their back pocket. Why else would play continue, and continue and continue and … well, you get the picture.
Not until 5:16 remained in the third, and after an offside call, could fans finally get up and stretch. That's an uninterrupted string of 8:55 of non-stop action, unofficially the longest stretch of the season.
Oddly enough, though, it's not even the longest span of 2008. On March 27, the Maple Leafs and Bruins played a span of 11:53 without a whistle in the first period of a game at TD Banknorth Garden.
Carolina Hurricanes forward Tuomo Ruutu had no idea the 8-plus minute stretch Thursday was taking place -- talk about focus.
"That's pretty unbelievable, really," Ruutu said. "To be honest, I didn't even recognize that there was no break. You know, you're so involved in the game, it's something that really doesn't even faze you. I'm not even sure if any of the other guys on our team knew what was going on."
Ruutu took two shifts and had 1 of his 2 hits in the game over the uninterrupted stretch. All told, there were 13 shots, 7 hits, 5 takeaways and more than your fair share of gasps emanating from the crowd.
The Capitals topped 2 of the categories with 4 hits (2 by John Erskine, 1 each by Jeff Schultz and Donald Brashear) and 5 takeaways. The reigning NHL scoring champion, Alex Ovechkin, was on the ice for 3:42; Carolina's Eric Staal, on the other hand, logged just 1:48 of ice time. Carolina held an 8-5 shots advantage over the stretch, including 3 off the stick of center Chad LaRose.
Interestingly enough, no one on Washington's top line -- Ovechkin, Semin and Sergei Fedorov -- registered a shot over the stretch. This, despite the fact the line accounted for all 3 Washington goals and totaled 6 points and 12 shots.