That’s one headline I never thought I’d be writing to describe a Tampa vs. Washington showdown this season, but Alexander Semin’s hat trick writes the headline itself. Here’s what you need to know from the Capitals’ 6-3 win over Tampa on Thursday:
- Want the biggest indication Semin’s game is changing? He stayed out of the penalty box on a night when the Capitals got called for five in fractions.
- Semin’s hat trick Thursday was his second one of the season and the fifth of his career (the NHL record is held by The Great One, of course, who scored 10 hat tricks in a single season twice in his career.) He also had an assist on the Capitals’ first goal of the night, scored by Tom Poti in his first game back since Oct. 21, and got off a shot on goal during a Capitals’ PK. Seriously, Alexander Ovechkin has somehow taken over Semin’s body (minus the hard checks) — there is no stopping Sasha II right now. “We’ll ride it as long as it goes,” head coach Bruce Boudreau said of Semin’s Midas touch, and added that Semin likes having the added responsibility that comes from playing on the top line with Nicklas Backstrom and Ovechkin.
- That being said, it took Semin and his teammates more than a period to get on the scoreboard, and the Capitals didn’t score 4 of their 6 goals until the third period. The second goal was one of the most awkwardly-gorgeous goals of the season: for some reason, the Lightning thought they needed three players around Tomas Fleischmann fighting for the puck, which a fly-by Knuble picked up, then lost back briefly to Tampa. Brooks Laich recovered, shot, missed, and the rebound was somehow tapped in by Knuble from way behind the cage. Ovechkin (three points on the evening) also had one of the 6 goals, but it came late in the third period after Semin already put the Caps ahead.
- Rebound: This pretty much described the Capitals’ game Thursday, the strengths and the weaknesses. The score could easily have been 3-0 in Tampa’s favor before the end of the first. Michal Neuvirth wasn’t controlling the rebounds initially, which led to some juicy chances for Tampa and contributed to them going up 1-0 in the first 20 minutes. The good news is the Capitals bounced back in the end, but their coach isn’t letting them get away with the delayed scoring.”They got crap in between periods,” Boudreau said of his first intermission messaging to his Capitals’ charges.
- Everyone’s talking about the Caps’ new and improved division opponent, who boasts the league’s leading goal scorer in Steven Stamkos. Stamkos has a goals and an assist on the evening — the goal came late in the third period and too late to help his team pull back. He’s a dynamic player, and likely to get even better.
- Matt Bradley: The guy delivers a great (clean!) hit on Tampa defenseman Mike Lundin, which somehow justifies Adam Hall skating all the way over and going after Bradley, who introduced Hall to the face of the ice in relatively short order. Our press box colleague Ed Frankovic was one of those (along with Boudreau) who questioned whether Hall should have received an instigator penalty, but Boudreau said afterwards that Bradley saw Hall coming, which apparently made Hall’s transgressions not worthy of additional minutes in the referees’ eyes.