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Semin's four points leads Caps to win over Coyotes

Saturday, 01.23.2010 / 11:41 PM / Roundup

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

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Semin's four points leads Caps to win over Coyotes
Alexander Semin scored a goal and set up the other three as Washington won its sixth game in a row by beating the Phoenix Coyotes 4-2 at the Verizon Center.
Alex Ovechkin wasn't the Washington Capitals' best player in Saturday's game against the Phoenix Coyotes. He wasn't even the best one named Alexander.

That honor went to fellow Russian Alexander Semin, who scored once and set up Washington's other three goals -- including Ovi's empty-netter -- as the Caps beat Phoenix 4-2 at the Verizon Center for their sixth win in a row.

"He’s playing well right now,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He’s so skilled. He’s one of the few people that I know of … Nicky (center Nicklas Backstrom) may be the other one, that can pass it from one side of the ice to the other side and it lands flat all the time. It’s a real skill. He’s got it. He’s sort of on his game right now.”

That's an understatement. Semin now has 10 points (2 goals, 8 assists) during a five-game scoring streak, his longest of the season.

His first assist was a pass through a defenseman that set up Brooks Laich's power-play goal 8:23 into the game. He set up Eric Fehr's power-play goal 13:22 into the second period to put Washington ahead to stay, then scored at 17:06 on a rocket from the right circle after a no-look pass from Tomas Fleischmann.

'I just play the way I play,'' Semin said through a translator. ''Sometimes I shoot to score, sometimes I pass. It depends on the situation, really. I play situational hockey. It depends on the moment that I'm in."

Don't think his teammates don't appreciate his talent.

''He's got some of the best vision in the League,'' Fehr said. ''He's got one of the hardest shots, and guys often forget he's a really good passer as well. He has his nights where it seems he can't do anything wrong and pucks are on guys' sticks and he's making big plays.''

Washington improved to 19-3-3 at home and has won all six games at the Verizon Center in 2010.

Rookie Lauri Korpikoski had both goals for the Coyotes. His second of the night at 7:24 of the third period made it 3-2.

"It was nice to get on the boards. It's been a long time since the last goals," Korpikoski said. "Good things happen when you go to the net."

Phoenix had three power plays in the third period and generated several chances to tie the game before Semin broke up a pass in his own zone and threw the puck down ice for Ovechkin's gimme into the empty net with six seconds left.

Canucks 5, Blackhawks 1 | HIGHLIGHTS

Vancouver's big line was too much for the Blackhawks. Henrik Sedin scored twice on assists from twin brother Daniel, who scored once on a pass from Henrik, and Alex Burrows assisted on all three goals for a nine-point night as the Canucks pulled even in points with first-place Colorado in the Northwest Division.

Roberto Luongo made an early lead stand up with a 43-save performance in his 22nd consecutive start as the Canucks won despite missing three of their top six defensemen with injuries.

"Roberto knew we were short on D personnel," coach Alain Vigneault said. "I'm sure he knew that he needed his 'A' game tonight on the ice, and that's what we got."

The Sedins and Burrows have been almost unstoppable since Daniel returned from a broken left foot two months ago. Their biggest goal came early in the third period, when Henrik scored 31 seconds after Jonathan Toews cut the Canucks' lead to 3-1.

"For me, what's more impressive -- it's not just the number of points, it's when you get them, at key times," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "That goal that made it 4-1 -- that was a pressure moment in the game. They had just scored, they could have been building momentum, and those guys go out right after and just take it all away.

"That's when it's time to score, and that's what they've been doing."

The Canucks put the game away early, scoring three times in just over 11 minutes of the first period to send rookie goaltender Antti Niemi to the bench.

Mikael Samuelsson banged in Ryan Kesler's rebound off the end boards at 7:19, Burrows' keep-in at the left point led to Henrik Sedin nudging the puck over the goal line at 10:21, and Steve Bernier backhanded home a rebound at 18:22.

Cristobal Huet relieved Niemi after the first period, but coach Joel Quenneville didn't fault his rookie goaltender.

"I wasn't blaming the goaltending at all tonight," he said. "You're down 3-0, you try to change the momentum. There's a lot of hockey left. It didn't work."

The Hawks did perk up, but they beat Luongo only once, when Toews backhanded a rebound past him at 3:30 of the third period. The Canucks answered when Henrik one-timed a pass from Daniel behind Huet at 4:01.

"That was certainly a big goal," Quenneville said. "Right back -- same shift. They play hard, they play well, they work together. They had more energy than we did."

Vancouver completed the scoring with 1:26 left when Henrik's pass on a 2-on-1 hit Daniel's skate and deflected into the net.

"They're one of the best teams in the West, but we played a solid game," Henrik Sedin said. "A couple of our Ds were gone, but the guys that came in stepped up."

The Hawks dropped to 3-2-0 on an eight-game trip that continues Tuesday in Edmonton.

"Some of the mistakes, we haven't seen them all year," Quenneville said. "We'll take a break tomorrow and try to get excited about Tuesday's game."


Canadiens 6, Rangers 0 | HIGHLIGHTS

This time, there was no Rangers comeback -- only some sweet revenge for the Canadiens.

Six nights after the Rangers spotted the Canadiens a 2-0 lead before roaring back for a 6-2 win at Madison Square Garden, the Canadiens turned the same scenario into a runaway as they scored four times in the second period for their biggest shutout win over the Rangers in Montreal since Dec. 6, 1958.

Mike Cammalleri continued his one-man onslaught against the Rangers with 2 goals and a pair of assists, giving him a 6-3-9 line against New York in their three meetings and five goals in two games at the Bell Centre. Jaroslav Halak, the victim of Sunday's rout in New York, stopped 32 shots for the shutout.

"We played in their building and got beat pretty bad," Halak said. "We wanted to do the same thing at home, and I'm glad it happened."

The win, Montreal's second in two nights, moved the Canadiens into eighth place in the Eastern Conference with 55 points -- even with Philadelphia and the Rangers, one more than Boston and New York Islanders.

"I think we're starting to figure out what we need to do to be at our best and this is hopefully something we can build on, but it is only two games," Cammalleri said in reference to the Habs' victories over the New Jersey Devils and Rangers 24 hours apart.

Ex-Ranger Scott Gomez scored in the first period before Cammalleri sandwiched his pair around one by Maxim Lapierre in a 3:42 span for a 4-0 lead just 6:17 into the second period. That sent Henrik Lundqvist to the bench after he stopped 11 of 15 shots.

Benoit Pouliot, off a feed from Cammalleri, and Tomas Plekanec added power-play goals to complete the Canadiens' best offensive night of the season.

"You realize you have to get better, we got serious about things this week," Cammalleri said of losses last weekend to Ottawa and the Rangers. "But these are just two wins. We want a third. This is just a start."

The Rangers were shut out for the second game in a row after scoring 14 goals in their previous two games. That outburst came after they had scored just one goal in losing three games. Overall, they are 2-4-1 in their last seven -- and all four regulation losses were shutouts.

"Some things we need to correct," an unhappy coach John Tortorella said. Asked about his team's compete level, he replied: "At times it was decent, other times it wasn't there."

Flyers 4, Hurricanes 2 | HIGHLIGHTS

Jeff Carter scored twice and Ray Emery made 33 saves -- including a game-saver in the final seconds -- as the Flyers completed a four-game series sweep of the Hurricanes with a win at the Wachovia Center.

For NHL.com's complete story, CLICK HERE

Panthers 2, Maple Leafs 0, | HIGHLIGHTS

Hours after learning that top scorer Nathan Horton has a broke leg and won't be back until after the Olympics, the weary Panthers shut down the visiting Leafs behind a 39-save performance by Tomas Vokoun, who earned his second shutout in four games during a six-day span this week.

"We've got (David) Booth and Horton out of the lineup, it's our seventh game in 10 nights. It's a gutsy win," Panthers coach Pete DeBoer said. "Our goaltender was great early, gave us a chance to get out of the first period. Considering the circumstances, I thought it was a real gutsy effort."
Vokoun has six shutouts this season and 37 in his NHL career. He made 27 stops in a 1-0 home win over Atlanta on Monday.

"It's always nice when you get on a roll," Vokoun said.
Cory Stillman poked in a rebound off the end boards for a power-play goal 4:36 into the second period, giving Vokoun was all the offense he needed. Kendal McArdle added his first NHL goal with 6:55 remaining in regulation, firing home a wrist shot from the right circle.

"It was great to be able to score that goal and get a win, as well," McArdle said. "It's just a win-win situation and I was just really happy that our team was able to hold on."

Toronto coach Ron Wilson, who saw his team outshoot the Panthers 39-22, couldn't find much wrong with the Leafs' effort.

"Their goaltender had a pretty good game," Wilson said. "I thought we managed the ice really well, but they got a lucky bounce off the back boards on their power-play goal. We couldn't get any bounces on our power play. You can't fault their effort, they played really hard but couldn't score."

Senators 2, Bruins 1 | HIGHLIGHTS

Jason Spezza returned from a knee injury and scored the winning goal in the second period as the red-hot Senators won their sixth in a row and beat the Bruins in Boston for the second time in six days.

Spezza missed 20 games with a knee injury that required surgery. He returned a week after captain Daniel Alfredsson rejoined the lineup following a shoulder injury. Alfredsson had the Senators' first goal

"I think we obviously got some key players back and our system is being executed very well," goaltender Brian Elliott said after stopping 32 shots. "I think teams are having trouble with that."

Alfredsson scored with six seconds left in the first period to put Ottawa in front. After Daniel Paille beat Elliott with a rocket from the left circle at 8:26 of the second period to tie the score, Spezza took a pass from Alex Kovalev and fired a long wrister over Tim Thomas' shoulder at 16:39.

"I knew the guys were playing well, we went through a real tough stretch and we kind of got things together a bit so I wanted to play well," said Spezza, who has 6 goals and has scored in three straight games.

Boston has lost four straight for the first time since December 2007 and has dropped seven of eight to fall out of the top eight in the East. The Bruins have lost five in a row at home, their worst stretch in Boston since five straight defeats there in 2000.

"I'm not going to make excuses here. Got to play better," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "Everybody. Have to be better as a team. You play with emotion, you play with attitude, you play with a lot of things and you've got to find that if you want to really turn the corner."

Lightning 2, Thrashers 1 (SO) | HIGHLIGHTS

Antero Niittymaki has no idea why he's unbeatable against the Atlanta Thrashers. But he is.

Niittymaki improved to 15-0 lifetime against the Thrashers by stopping 37 shots through 65 minutes and four more in the shootout as Tampa Bay beat Atlanta at the St. Pete Times Forum.
"I can't explain it," Niittymaki said.

Atlanta's Nik Antropov and Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos scored 2:03 apart in the game's first 7:28. The rest of the night belonged to Niittymaki, as the Thrashers were unable to score again despite outshooting Tampa Bay 38-26. Jeff Halpern had the shootout winner in the fifth round.

"It's nice to find a way to win when you didn't play your best," Tampa Bay coach Rick Tocchet said after his team's sixth win in its last eight home games. "He was incredible. He got us the two points."

Halpern slid the puck through Johan Hedberg's legs, spoiling a solid performance by the veteran goaltender.

"Moose played unbelievable, and we had a lot of point-blank chances on Niittymaki," center Rich Peverley said.

Atlanta coach john Anderson wasn't happy about going home with only one point.

"We don't get the two and we give a team that's right behind us the chance to tie us," Anderson said.

Atlanta left winger Slava Kozlov was a healthy scratch, which ended his franchise record of 251 consecutive games. He has not scored in 16 games.

Wild 4, Blue Jackets 2 | HIGHLIGHTS

The Wild capped Hockey Day in Minnesota by ending a four-game losing streak with a solid win over the Blue Jackets, thanks to two goals by Mikko Koivu and 21 saves by Niklas Backstrom.

Koivu converted a feed from Antti Miettinen 3:41 into the game, then beat Steve Mason through a screen from just above the right circle for an unassisted goal 1:26 into the second period for a 2-0 lead. Koivu has 26 points in his last 29 games.

Minnesota led after the first period for just the second time in 14 games.

''It was one of the best first periods we've had in a long time,'' Backstrom said. ''It was just nice to get the lead. But it was one good first period -- now we have to make sure we keep doing it.''

At 4:18, Eric Belanger turned and fired a puck in the direction of the Columbus goal without really looking. The puck went between Mason's legs to make it 3-0. Minnesota is 21-7-3 when scoring at least three goals.

Robbie Earl scored with 1:08 left, a goal that turned out to be handy. Backstrom was less than 30 seconds away from a shutout before Rick Nash and Antoine Vermette scored for the Jackets.

"We're desperate for points," Nash said. "If we're going to make a run here we need to start it right now. I thought we played desperate on Thursday night, but tonight we didn't play desperate for the full 60."

The Jackets allowed a first-period goal for the 10th time in 11 games -- and they're paying the price.

"Obviously, we set ourselves back early and we find ourselves having to play back for the rest of it," said Mason, who stopped 24 shots but has just one road win since November. ''Obviously it's not the way you want to start hockey games. We have to find a way to not let that happen."


Material from national and team media and wire services was used in this report


Quote of the Day

With this being the last year [at the Coliseum], we'd love to try to get back to the dance like we did against Pittsburgh and prove ourselves and go even further. It's an important year.

— New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano