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Semin's five-point night leads Caps

by John Kreiser /
A few thoughts as we salute Pierre Pilote and Keith Magnuson, whose No. 3 now hangs in the United Center rafters:

(The other) Alexander the Great -- It's not surprising that a member of the Washington Capitals born in Russia and with the first name Alexander is leading the NHL in scoring. After all, it happened last season, when Alex Ovechkin won the Art Ross Trophy.

Ovechkin's brilliance has overshadowed the Capitals' other Alexander from Russia -- until this season, when Alexander Semin has stolen a lot of his teammate's thunder.

Semin took over the NHL lead in goals and points with a brilliant performance Wednesday, scoring twice and adding 3 assists in the Caps' 5-1 victory at Carolina.

Not that Ovechkin minds.

"I hope he's going to play the same way -- he's going to be the best player in the League," said Ovechkin, who had a first-period goal that was set up by Semin, returned the favor on Semin's second goal and teamed with his fellow Russian to set up Nicklas Backstrom's third-period goal.

"What can you say about our line? We controlled the game, controlled the puck," Ovechkin said.

Semin's second goal gave him 13, one more than Buffalo's Thomas Vanek. He has 27 points, three more than runner-up Evgeni Malkin of Pittsburgh.

"He's on a roll right now," Backstrom said of Semin, whose second multi-goal game in six days against the Hurricanes left him with 17 career goals against them -- his most against any team.

In all, the line of Backstrom, Semin and Ovechkin combined for 12 points (4 goals, 8 assists), and each of the three was plus-4. The goal was Ovechkin's fourth, but second in two games.

"You can tell the potential that (the line has) when they're on top of their game, and I think all three of them were on top of their game tonight," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It was really good to get Ovie a goal early -- that pumped the line up."

Scott Walker, who had Carolina's lone goal, wasn't happy with the way his team defended (or didn't defend) against the Caps' big line.

"If we beat them to the puck, we outbattle them, then they are not going to have time and space," he said. "If we sit back and let them play with the puck and we turn the puck over and we don't do all the little things, then yeah, they're great players; they are world-class."

It's over -- Roberto Luongo will have to start working on a new shutout streak.

The old one ended at 242 minutes, 36 seconds when Colorado's Paul Stastny whacked a rebound past Luongo during a power-play scramble 1:28 into the third period. That tied the game at 1-1, and the Avs scored twice in a shootout for a 2-1 victory.

Luongo came into the game with three consecutive shutouts, but was matched save for save by Colorado's Peter Budaj, who stopped everything but Taylor Pyatt's second-period penalty shot during the 65 minutes of regulation and overtime.

"We had chances and they had chances," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. "Louie kept us in it in the first period. We had opportunities to put a couple of goals into empty nets in the second period and didn't do it."

Luongo was much more disappointed by the point the Canucks didn't get in the shootout than by seeing his shutout streak ended.

"We can't be satisfied with our performance and only getting one point," the Vancouver captain said. "I don't care about the streak. Our goal was two points. That's more disappointing that any streak."

He did tip his cap to Budaj, who has allowed just one goal in 125 minutes in his last two starts.

"He made some big saves, timely saves late in the second and the third period," Luongo said.

Missing Marty -- The New York Rangers made the most of a rare visit to New Jersey that didn't include facing Martin Brodeur.

With the future Hall of Famer sidelined after surgery to repair a torn biceps tendon, the Devils started Kevin Weekes in goal -- only the third time in their last 101 meetings that Brodeur wasn't the starter against the Rangers. Weekes was flawless in the first period but surrendered four goals in the second and didn't play in the third as the Rangers continued their recent domination of the Devils with a 5-2 win at the Prudential Center.

"He is such a mainstay and you don't think of the Devils without him," Rangers captain Chris Drury said. "We're just trying to beat the whole team, not worrying about the goalie."

They did both, taking advantage of the Devils' parade to the penalty box to score a pair of 5-on-3 goals and overcome a 1-0 deficit. Michal Rozsival, Drury, and Lauri Korpikoski scored in a span of 2:08 to turn a one-goal deficit into a 3-1 lead before 10 minutes elapsed in the second, and Nikolai Zherdev added New York's second 5-on-3 goal with 4:10 left.


"You could kind of tell the game turned," said Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. "We started skating more, we got more confidence. One goal can change everything, one save can change everything."

It was Weekes' first bad night since taking over forBrodeur, who was injured Nov. 1. He was 1-2-0 in three starts, but allowed just eight goals in those games.

This time, though, Weekes was hooked after the second period. Zherdev scored his second of the night midway through the third period against Scott Clemmensen.

"At times he looked shaky," Devils coach Brent Sutter said of Weekes. "I know he had lots of shots in the second, but I thought he was fighting it. I also felt the team needed a shake-up."

Ironically, Weekes was the winning goalie for the Rangers on Nov. 5, 2005 -- the last time New York played the Devils without Brodeur.

"It's never pleasant," Weekes said of being pulled. "We were on our heels the whole second period. ... They were making plays and their power play was hot."

Close, but … -- Shane Doan never will come closer to his first NHL hat trick than he did in the Phoenix Coyotes' 5-2 win at Columbus.

Doan, the Coyotes' captain, had 2 goals and was looking at an open net after the Blue Jackets pulled goaltender Steve Mason. Instead, he hit the right post and had to settle for an assist when Martin Hanzal put the puck into the vacant net.

"That takes a lot more skill to hit the post from there than to actually put it into the net," he said with a grin. "I think this is my 900th game coming up and I still haven't gotten one. I've got so many two-goal games, it's ridiculous."

It was the 30th two-goal game of Captain Coyote's career. He's played 897 games without getting three in one night.

Doan may never get a better chance than he had at Nationwide Arena.

"I thought there was no way he could hit the post about four feet up, as it's bouncing from our blue line," coach Wayne Gretzky said after the Coyotes' third consecutive win. "I thought for sure that it was going to go in.
"I hope he's going to play the same way — he's going to be the best player in the league." -- Alex Ovechkin, on teammate Alexander Semin

Earning his chance -- Florida goaltender Craig Anderson knows where he'll be Friday night -- in goal for the Panthers when the Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings come to town.

Anderson will get his opportunity for a third straight start after making 24 saves in Florida's 4-0 victory against Tampa Bay.

"It's not just the saves he made, but the timing of them," Florida coach Pete DeBoer said.

The Panthers' backup got the chance to start against the Lightning after a 44-save performance in Sunday's 3-1 win at Anaheim, which ended Florida's six-game losing streak.

"Anderson deserves to start again," DeBoer said. "He had a couple of outstanding games, and it's about winning hockey games. We all know what Tomas (Vokoun) is capable of. This isn't about him or competition or who's the starter. We need wins right now, and Anderson's hot."

Anderson, who last season became the first NHL goalie to record back-to-back 1-0 shutouts on the road, earned his fifth career shutout.

He said one key to his success is not thinking too much.

"If you start thinking about it, it starts to get a little difficult," Anderson said. "You don't want to make that silly mistake that really costs you the shutout. The best way to play is to not really think about it and worry about the win."

No more Blue nights in Buffalo -- When you haven't beaten an opponent in your own building for 13 years, ending that drought never is easy -- even with a quick three-goal lead.

The Buffalo Sabres led St. Louis 3-0 just 5:18 into Wednesday's game, but then had to hang on to beat the Blues, 4-3. It was their first win ever over the Blues at HSBC Arena -- the Sabres hadn't beaten St. Louis in Buffalo since a 5-2 win at Memorial Auditorium on Oct. 22, 1995.

"We got the start we wanted and we had plenty of scoring chances," said Sabres forward Jason Pominville, whose goal made it 3-0. "We could have easily scored a few more. It was a night where the goalies made good saves."

The Blues twice got within a goal and pressured Ryan Miller down the stretch before coming up short.

"We weren't going to keep that pace up of three goals in 10 minutes for the rest of the night," said Adam Mair, who had a goal and an assist. "They started to take more risks and found their legs. It's important to be able to play with that pressure sometimes. It creates positive and good habits that can carry you through."

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

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