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Semin's long shot wins it for Caps

by Brian Compton
An 80-foot slap shot by Alexander Semin in overtime closed the gap between the top two teams in the Eastern Conference.

Semin's blast from just inside the red line somehow found its way past goaltender Tim Thomas, giving the Washington Capitals a wild 4-3 victory against the Boston Bruins at TD Banknorth Garden on Saturday afternoon.

"I was tired and trying to shoot the puck in the zone," Semin said through Alex Ovechkin, who interpreted for his fellow Russian. "I was a little surprised, but sometimes it happens."

Washington, which trails Boston by eight points, has won three of the teams' four meetings this season. It certainly is possible that the teams could again collide in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

''I don't think it gives us any advantage, but it does give us the thought that over four games so far we've been able to compete with maybe the best team in the League,'' Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. ''If it gets down to it in the (conference) finals ... then it would probably be a good series.''

With the Bruins trailing 3-2, captain Zdeno Chara forced overtime when he beat Jose Theodore during a power-play with just 4:37 left in regulation. It was Chara's 100th career tally.

"I didn't think he had room," Theodore said. "Chara has a hard shot. It's my job to respect a guy like that and challenge a little bit more."

But just 22 seconds into overtime, Semin took a pass from Mike Green, took one stride over the red line and ripped a slap shot that knuckled as it sailed, then went off the glove of Thomas and trickled into the net.

"It's very frustrating. I feel bad for the team that that's the way it had to end," said Thomas, who made 28 saves. "He who laughs last laughs hardest. We'll see what happens."

Bruins coach Claude Julien was sympathetic.

''He's given us too much to be worried about that,'' Julien said. ''Call it a lucky goal or a bad goal; we can call it what we want. But those are shots that shouldn't go in.''

The teams exchanged goals in the first period. Nicklas Backstrom gave the Caps a 1-0 lead at 3:36 before Matt Hunwick tied things up less than two minutes later. It was the same scenario in the second -- Ovechkin tallied his 45th goal of the season at 8:48 on a wrist shot that beat Thomas just inside the post, only to see Phil Kessel tie the game just 18 seconds later off a cross-ice feed from Marc Savard.

Tomas Fleischmann put Washington back in front with a power-play goal at 2:20 of the third. With David Krejci in the penalty box for hooking, Fleischmann fired a shot that went off defenseman Dennis Wideman before going past Thomas to make it 3-2. It was Fleischmann's 17th goal of the season.

Though they trail Boston by eight points, the Caps haven't given up hopes of catching the Bruins for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.


''We still have 19 games so anything can happen,'' Ovechkin said. ''Every game against them we got at least one point, so it's good for our mentality that we can beat them and it doesn't matter if first or second. I think it's all about us. If we play our game and our system we can beat everybody.''

But with his team still comfortably atop the conference standings, Julien was critical of the No. 2 Capitals. Saturday's loss was just Boston's fourth on home ice in the last 27 games.

''I have heard them say they're in our heads,'' he said. ''They do a lot of talking. I don't think they do a lot of research.''
Material from wire services was used in this report.

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