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Semin's goal sparks Caps past Bruins

by Brian Compton
The Washington Capitals closed the gap on Saturday night.

Entering their showdown with the Boston Bruins at the Verizon Center on Saturday night, the Caps trailed Claude Julien's club by 11 points in the Eastern Conference standings. When the final horn sounded, the deficit was down to nine.

Alexander Semin's goal at 11:48 of the third period broke a 1-1 tie and Jose Theodore made 23 saves as the Southeast Division leaders eked out a 2-1 victory against the Bruins, who saw their four-game winning streak come to an end.

"It's a weird feeling," Boston goalie Tim Thomas said of the rare loss, which ended the Bruins' seven-game winning streak on the road. "At least we showed up to play. It's not a loss where we didn't put in the effort."

Semin's unassisted goal was his 18th of the season. He's scored in each of the Caps' last four games. Thomas -- who finished with 28 saves -- admitted he was surprised by the shot.

''I didn't know Semin was just going to come down and shoot it,'' Thomas said of the big forward's blast from the top of the right circle, which went past his catching glove. ''There's not that many times when a guy has that much time to wind up for a slap shot like that."
The win ended a brief skid at home for the Capitals -- who had lost their previous two games at the Verizon Center after winning 18 of their first 20 to start the season.

''It was a playoff game, I think -- that mentality. Two really good teams,'' Theodore said. ''Obviously, you didn't want to make a mistake.''

Washington outshot Boston 7-5 in the first period, but neither team was able to find the back of the net. Marc Savard broke the scoreless tie with his 16th goal of the season at 1:49 of the second. The tally came 29 seconds after Milan Jurcina was whistled for holding.

"When you lose a game, you don't want to lose two in a row," Savard said. "I think we'll go back and have a good practice tomorrow. We have two more games before the All-Star break, and we want wins."

Mike Green tied things up with a power-play goal of his own just 70 seconds after Savard had given Boston the lead. With Matt Lashoff in the penalty box, Green raced in from the right point, took a pass from Michael Nylander and ripped a slap shot past Thomas to make it 1-1. It was Green's 12th goal of the season.

"They're a good team, especially at home," Thomas said. "They come out strong in the first period, and we withstood that. We didn't play too bad. We didn't get the win, but I don't think it's from a lack of effort."

After Semin's goal, Boston had a golden opportunity to tie things up when Capitals defenseman John Erskine was nailed for elbowing with 1:41 remaining. The Bruins pulled Thomas for an extra attacker, giving them a 6-on-4 manpower edge, but recorded only one shot on the goal before the final buzzer.    

"It doesn't take much to turn the tide around," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "Unfortunately, we came out on the short end of it. We all know they're a highly-skilled team. Their four lines are pretty deep right now."

Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau appreciated the boisterous crowd of 18,277; he said it felt more like late April or early May than mid-January.

''It was a playoff-type atmosphere and game,'' Boudreau said.

Maybe these teams will meet again in the postseason to determine who will represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Final?

''It's too early to talk about the playoffs,'' Boudreau said. ''I hope to get to that point. I hope to get to May.''

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

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