WASHINGTON -- There was a Sasha sighting.
Not just on the score sheet, which has been rare enough in the playoffs. Alexander Semin's overtime goal -- that edged the Washington Capitals past the New York Rangers, 2-1, in Game 1 of the first-round series Wednesday night -- was the Russian winger's first goal in 15 postseason games.
Semin, who is as media shy of a professional athlete as you'll find, also spoke to a gathering of reporters for the first time in about the same length, perhaps even longer.
|Stanley Cup Playoffs|
"No it's all right guys," Semin said through an interpreter. "Don't worry."
Semin didn't give his teammates, coaching staff or the partisan crowd here at the Verizon Center much cause for concern, at least after he got his perfunctory bad penalty out of his system early. He was called for a hook on Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh in the neutral zone with two minutes left in the first period.
It could have been an opportunity for Semin -- who sent a shot off the crossbar earlier in the period that wasn't too dissimilar from his game-winner -- to become disillusioned. That didn't happen.
"We aren't going anywhere without him," Capitals winger Mike Knuble said. "That was pretty obvious last year. He had some offensive struggles, but he chipped in on both goals today. He's a game-breaker type of guy. You need to have a guy like that going."
|A former 40-goal scorer, Alexander Semin breaks through with his first goal in the playoffs. (AP)|
Semin's wrist shot rebounded toward Ovechkin, who took a couple of whacks to shove the puck under Lundqvist. Even though the puck was lost somewhere inside Lundqvist's pads for a moment, referee Brian Pochmara let the play continue and the puck eventually went across the goal line. The goal was upheld upon video review.
"We couldn't get a nice goal on him, so we scored a junk goal," Semin said of Lundquvist, who finished with 31 saves. "But that works."
There was a little more art to his goal. Caps center Jason Arnott intercepted a clearing attempt by Rangers defenseman Marc Staal and quickly found Semin in the high slot. Semin, in turn, rifled a one-timer past Lundqvist.
"[Arnott] made a good play and the shot was just a rocket," Lundqvist said. "I tried to be square but I didn't have time to react on that one. It was a good shot."
Semin's motivation has been quietly questioned at times and his ill-timed penalties -- usually nowhere near the Capitals' defensive zone -- can grate on the coaching staff, but Boudreau said he saw something different in the former 40-goal scorer Wednesday evening.
"You can tell, as somebody who has coached [Semin] for a long time, when he's on and into it," Boudreau said. "I thought from the moment we dropped the puck, he wanted it."