Capitals 4, Coyotes 2
Alexander Semin made every play the Washington Capitals needed Saturday night.
Semin set up the Capitals' first goal with a pass through a defenseman. He scored in the second period to help the Capitals regain momentum and a two-goal cushion. And he was right there every time Washington scored in a 4-2 win against the Phoenix Coyotes, finishing with a goal and a season-high three assists.
``He's got some of the best vision in the league,'' said Eric Fehr, whose second-period goal was set up by a Semin pass. ``He's got one of the hardest shots, and guys often forget he's a really good passer as well. He has his nights where it seems he can't do anything wrong and pucks are on guys' sticks and he's making big plays.''
Semin has had many of those nights lately. In his last eight games, he has five goals and 10 assists.
``He's so skilled,'' Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. ``He's one of the few people that I know of ... that can pass it from one side of the ice to the other side in the air and it lands flat all the time. It never bounces.''
Lauri Korpikoski scored two goals for the Coyotes - his first since Nov. 27 - but Semin made the biggest plays as the Capitals won for the sixth straight time and improved to 18-3-3 at home this season.
Semin set up Washington's first score with a nice centering pass through the Coyotes defense, and his goal was set up by an even flashier pass from Tomas Fleischmann.
Fleischmann's no-look, between-the-legs pass found Semin alone in the right circle. Semin glided for a second, controlling the puck and taking aim before firing it between goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov and the right post. It was Semin's 21st goal of the season, giving the Capitals a 3-1 lead at 17:06.
While Semin provided the offense, Michal Neuvirth made 28 saves in his first start since Jan. 13, including stops on short-handed breakaways by Vernon Fiddler in the first period and Korpikoski late in the third.
Neuvirth had struggled in his previous two starts, giving up four goals and being pulled early in each game. Boudreau said Neuvirth had been ``rattled'' by the performances at Tampa Bay and Florida but praised the goaltender for his work against Phoenix.
``I thought he was a little nervous at the beginning of the game,'' Boudreau said. ``But he really smothered pucks in the third period.''
Boudreau had put Neuvirth in the game hoping his return would counter any emotional letdown as the Capitals came off wins against Philadelphia, Detroit and Pittsburgh.
Semin helped Washington get off to a nice start. He sent a pass from the left circle past charging defenseman Ed Jovanovski, finding Brooks Laich in front of the net for a 1-0 lead in the first.
Korpikoski's first goal tied it a few minutes later, but the Capitals took the lead for good in the second.
Fehr broke the tie with a power-play goal. Taking a pass from Semin on the left goal line, Fehr first tried a pass that bounced back to him off the leg of a Coyotes defenseman. He put his second chance in the net.
``A nice pass off the shin pad to myself there,'' Fehr said. ``I'll take those breaks right now. They feel great, so hopefully they can keep coming.''
Semin's second goal then gave the Capitals a two-goal cushion, which they needed after Korpikoski scored his second on a rebound at 7:24 in the third period.
``It was nice to get on the boards. It's been a long time since the last goals,'' Korpikoski said. ``Good things happen when you go to the net.''
Neuvirth and the Washington defense held off a determined late attack by the Coyotes, and Alex Ovechkin sealed the game with an empty-net goal with 5 seconds left for his 33rd of the season.
And, of course, Semin picked up an assist on Ovechkin's goal to cap his big night.
``I just play the way I play,'' Semin said through a translator. ``Sometimes I shoot to score, sometimes I pass. It depends on the situation, really. I play situational hockey. It depends on the moment that I'm in.''
NOTES: Phoenix C Daniel Winnik missed his second straight game with an upper-body injury. ... Washington had two players return after missing games with injury. D John Erskine (upper-body injury) had missed the past six games, and D Mike Green (undisclosed) missed one game. ... The Coyotes managed three shots on goal during their five power plays, but had six short-handed shots during the Capitals' seven power plays.