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Talented Semin stood out

by John McGourty
Washington Capitals left winger Alexander Semin spent most of the season suffering from backaches. On Monday, he gave the New York Rangers headaches with two goals and an assist in the Capitals' 4-0 victory at Madison Square Garden that halved the Blueshirts' series lead to 2-1. The teams play again Wednesday in New York.

All of Semin's considerable talents were on display Monday as he finished off great passes for the first two goals and worked a beautiful give-and-go with Sergei Fedorov to get in position to set up Brooks Laich's goal that made it 3-0. Semin also had five other shots, blocked a shot, had two takeaways and won his only faceoff.

Semin, 25, is in his fourth NHL season after the Capitals made him their first-round pick, No. 13, in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. He started fast this season but was shelved for 12 games with back problems in mid-November. He played five games in which he had four points, then sat for six more games, into January, with back pain.

But he regained his form to finish strongly, adding 26 points in his final 20 games. He had a career year with 34 goals and 45 assists for 79 points, 18th in NHL scoring. He was plus-25, his first plus season in the NHL.

Semin had a goal in Game 1, a 4-3 Washington loss, but had a bad Game 2 in which he was held pointless and picked up two minor penalties.

Semin isn't comfortable speaking English but his teammates were glad to speak for him.

"I don't think he did anything different from Games 1 and 2 but tonight we had more lucky bounces going our way," said linemate Tomas Fleischmann. "He was outstanding from the first shift and I thought he was going to score every shift. He played unbelievable."

Fleischmann wasn't on the ice for Semin's goals. He saw a chance for a line change and Alexander Ovechkin hopped on in his place. Ovechkin had the first assist on both Semin goals.

"I came off early and he jumped on," Fleischmann said. "Usually when we get a puck out of our zone, we change. It happened, a lucky change twice in a row, a guy scores and I'm happy for him."

Nicklas Backstrom, the center on Semin and Fleischmann's line, made a great play to deny Ryan Callahan a goal and then rushed the puck up ice for Semin's second goal.

I was lucky there (on Callahan)," said Backstrom, who had assists on both Semin goals and then made a great pass to set up Tom Poti’s goal. "It seemed like he had an open net and I had a lucky stick. We scored after that so it was kind of a lucky shift. Sometimes that happens in hockey.

"It's easy to play with (Semin). "He's a talented guy, a skilled guy. He makes it easy for me. I give him the pass and he's a great goal scorer. He worked hard tonight and everyone worked hard. When we work hard, that makes us successful."

Backstrom said he passed to Ovechkin on the second goal because Ovechkin demanded it.

"He looked like he was mad because I was saving it. I found Ovechkin at the near post and he made a great pass to Semin. You have to credit him. We had some lucky goals and I think we needed that in this game. It's just one game and we have to regroup again," Backstrom said.

"I think we outworked them. We worked harder and we fought for our lives out there. That's something good about our team. We have that and hopefully we'll have it again Wednesday."

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