NHL

Semin shows spark (at last) in Caps' win

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A.J. Perez

A.J. Perez previously worked at USA Today, AOL and CBSSports.com, covering beats ranging from performance-enhancing drugs to the NHL. He has also been a finalist for an Associated Press Sports Editors award for investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter.

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WASHINGTON

He’s become the forgotten Alex in DC.

Alex Semin, whose potential has never quite matched his output, flashed some of what many fans here had hoped would be routine by now on a second-period power play. He sniped a shot past hulking Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara and then goalie Tim Thomas, a volley that wound up as the game-winner in a 2-1 Capitals victory at Verizon Center on Thursday night.

Semin, even in victory, remained his same enigmatic self and so opposite in demeanor to the Caps’ other Russian forward named "Alex" — Ovechkin.

“I don’t want to discuss it,” Semin said through an interpreter when asked if he’s primed for a breakout postseason. “We won this game. We just have to get ready for the next one.”

No, Semin isn’t the most endearing figure. He doesn’t do interviews very often and apparently hasn’t learned enough English — despite playing stateside since 2006 — to have a go minus an interpreter. (He does, however, jump the questions asked of him before the interpreter can finish, so he may know more than he lets on.)

He answered four questions succinctly as most of the media members were crowded around goalie Braden Holtby, who had a 44-save effort to even the best-of-seven first-round series at 2-2.

It’s his lack of scoring and his untimely penalties, however, that have frustrated most red-clad fans as much as his attitude — maybe even to the same level as the clock operator here who failed to run it for about five seconds at the conclusion of the game, or playing minus Nicklas Basckstrom; Backstrom served a one-game ban for his match penalty he received in Game 3.

Caps coach Dale Hunter said he hasn’t had any issues with Semin since he took over as coach in November.

“He’s been good all year,” Hunter said. “He’s scored some big goals down the stretch to get us into the playoffs. He’s blocking shots like the rest of the guys are. He cares about winning or losing. He’s been battling and that’s what we need from him.”

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Goals would be nice, too. His tally on Thursday was his second of the series and 14th in 41 postseason games overall. He’s had one multi-goal playoff game, and went 14 games without a postseason goal before he scored in the opening game of the first-round series against the New York Rangers last season.

“Alex has game-breaking abilities,” Caps forward Brooks Laich said. “I don’t think the criticism of the past was justified. He’s playing great for us right now. He’s moving his feet and getting chances. When he does that, he’s got a good enough shot to score.”

Semin all but admitted a staggered approach to games.

“Every game is different,” Semin said. “You approach and play every game differently. Today, I just decided to shoot it and I made the shot."

Former teammate Matt Bradley, in an interview after last season, said Semin “just doesn’t care.” He backtracked some on those comments made to a Canadian radio station, but it validated what some had thought of Semin’s commitment level.

“He’s really streaky and he did a good job tonight,” Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. “You always have to be on him when he’s out there. You never know when he’s on his game and when he’s not.”

Caps management doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to sign Semin to another extension. His contract expires at season’s end, and there have always been whispers about returning to Russia to play in the KHL. Semin, likewise, may not be too eager to stay in the NHL, which has an expiring collective-bargaining agreement and a potential lockout on the horizon.

Whether he’s headed out of town or not, Semin could win some favor with a few more games like Thursday's.

Tagged: Bruins, Capitals

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