Friday, April 20, 2012

Semin's Laser Ties Series

Capitals 2, Bruins 1 Series Tied 2-2
Game Summary - Event Summary

The only thing that has been consistent about the play of Alexander Semin is his inconsistent play in the post season. From being a game changer in one series to completely falling off the map in the next, fans and experts have criticized the Capitals winger of having all this pure raw talent but wasting it. It certainly wasn't wasted tonight as Semin's laser beat Zdeno Chara and Tim Thomas for the only power play goal of the night and helped the Capitals tie up the series with the Boston Bruins at two games apiece with a 2-1 win.

"There was a good shot there by Semin," Bruins bench boss Claude Julien told reporters. "Couldn’t have asked for a better shot."

The Caps could not have. With both teams aching to stay penalty free, the Bruins were called for three in fractions to the Capitals' one. Washington had their chances in the first two, but when Semin circled to the side board from behind the Boston net on the third powerplay, just about everyone stopped and hesitated. Semin pulled the puck back and placed the perfect wrist shot through the legs of Chara (who didn't know whether to advance to block the shot or stand pat) and beat Thomas through the crook of his left elbow to hit the top corner of the net. It happened with just 1:17 left in the second period.

Marcus Johansson also found the net, just 1:22 after the opening face off. After some puck mismanagement by the Bruins in the neutral zone, Ovi took out one defender with a hit and it opened a two on one with Brooks Laich with the puck and Johansson streaking down the right side. A pretty pass through the defender by Laich set up the first goal of the game for the Caps as MoJo shot high over a sprawling Thomas.

It would be the only shot for the Capitals until the dying moments of the first. The Bruins jumped all over the Capitals. They out shot the Caps 14-3 and would get the equalizer over a turnover. Rich Peverley found himself on a two on one of his own, but faked the pass which froze Caps' net minder Braden Holtby and he found room on the short side.

(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Holtby, who at times has shown bouts of goaltending genius, was once again a solid back end for the Capitals when things broke down defensively. Holtby would stop 44 of 45 shots for a .978 save percentage for the game.

"[The Bruins] came out real hard tonight," Caps coach Dale Hunter said.  "[Their] forecheck was hard and we turned the puck over a few times. Holtby was very good. He stood tall and kicked out a lot of rubber tonight."

Again it came down to two goaltenders matching each other save for save as Thomas and Holtby stood tall when they needed to be. Earning the game's first star, Holtby has been the difference maker for the Capitals this post season. Even in the last second of the game, the puck found his glove and he jabbed it skyward as the horn sounded.

He had some help. Holtby's stats are impressive, but the Capitals were committed to blocking shots in front of him including the last minute of play where players were sprawling in front of heavy point shots to preserve the win. Jay Beagle seemed to be everywhere to stop a puck, stopping five himself to lead his team in blocked shots. Even Alex Ovechkin sacrificed the body to stop three shots. When shots did get through, the Capitals seemed to be there to gobble up any rebounds and keep the Bruins from getting to loose pucks in front of Holtby.

The Capitals were using the body more effectively this game as well. Matt Hendricks came with the body leading his team in hits with seven. They out hit the Bruins 44 to 34. John Erskine played his first game in nearly two months and his physical presence was felt, nullifying the Bruins big forwards in front of the net.

"It’s unbelievable," Erskine said of returning to the line up. "I was watching last game here. Just to jump on the ice with those guys and have the fans going nuts. It’s playoff hockey so it’s a lot of fun."

While the hitting was high, the Caps stayed disciplined. Taking only one peanlty, a hooking call to Mike Knuble, the Caps kept the special teams in their favor. Their PP scored, their PK kept it out.

Giveaways were a sour point with the Caps in game 4. They turned the puck over 14 times with 12 players guilty of losing the puck at one point or another. On one turnover, just moments before Alex Semin's game winner, led to a odd man rush up the ice for the Bruins. The hustle of Johansson saved a goal as he reached for the cross ice pass to Milan Lucic and tipped the puck harmlessly to the corner. It is an area the Caps will need to tighten up.

The Capitals were badly outshot all game as well. They only really sustained enough pressure for 15 shots in the second period, but only three shots in the first and third periods of play.

"Giving up that first goal and playing catch-up hockey," Bruins coach Julien said. "We tied the game. We were right back where we wanted to be. But at the end of the night the results weren’t the ones we wanted. When you shoot 40 shots on net you would expect your team to get more than one goal so there’s obviously some areas that we’re not happy with."

The series now becomes a best of three games and it shifts back to Boston for a back to back afternoon tilts on Saturday and back to the phone booth Sunday. That is three games in four nights. The Caps are sitting pretty right now with the series tied up at two and if they continue to do the same as tonight, albeit with less turnovers, the Caps could take the series lead on Boston ice.

"I think we just [have] to carry that momentum into Boston and get a good start there too," said Erskine.

"I always said after the first game, it’s going to be [a] long series and you never know what’s going to happen," the Capitals' captain said of the back to back games on the horizon. "Again, step-by-step, game-by-game we going to take it and we are going to try to win the series."

Caps Notes:
  • The Capitals have the only two power play goals in the series and it is their second straight game with a PP tally.
  • Keith Aucoin received his first career playoff point with an assist on Semin's goal.
  • Mike Knuble replaced the suspended Nick Backstrom for game 4.
  • Per Caps PR: Marcus Johansson scored his first goal of the playoffs. He now has collected eight points (3g-5a) in 13 career playoff games. Johansson has tallied more playoff points than any other player from his 2009 draft class.

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