Washington Capitals overjoyed after breaking 8-game losing streak; extent of Alex Semin’s injury unclear

The Washington Capitals kept up a brave face during their eight game losing streak. They said all the right things and didn’t make any reckless personnel or front office moves, but judging from their raucous reaction to a 3-2 win over the Ottawa Senators, there’s no doubt that a weight’s been lifted off the team’s shoulders.

Katie Carrera of the Washington Post writes that the jubilant mood in the Caps’ locker room was in stark contrast to the tense environment during the skid.

People who love to beat up on the Capitals for being a team that thrives during the regular season but cannot win in the playoffs will use these quotes as bulletin board material. Here are some of the reactions from Washington players and coaches.

(One can only imagine that Boudreau’s post-game speech was littered with happy f-bombs last night.)

Mathieu Perreault: “It felt like we won a championship, it’s been so long since we’ve won. It’s a great feeling.”

Nicklas Backstrom: “It feels good to finally win again, I almost forgot how it was to win so it’s a good feeling. I missed it.”

Michal Neuvirth: “It’s unbelievable. It’s like my second-best game ever after the ones where I won the Calder Cup. This is the second-best feeling ever, it’s such a relief.”

Then there’s Coach Bruce Boudreau, just as happy as anyone that the streak is over, but he wasn’t slow to point out that one out of nine is just a start.

“In the sense that we’ll be able to sleep tonight, I think it was a big win,” Boudreau said. “As a coach just looking at the players’ faces and seeing them happy instead of grinding and everything, it’s a huge win. But in the end it’s one out of nine so it’s not like we’re out of the woods. I thought we competed really hard tonight, especially after getting down 2-0, but they can enjoy it for 10 minutes and then we’ve got another game on Tuesday.”

Some people might overreact to Washington’s overreaction, but let’s not forget that they’re all people anyway. It’s natural to react to the end of a losing streak in an ecstatic way, especially when you carry the burden of expectations like the Capitals.

Congrats to the Caps, but now it’s time for them to generate a winning streak.

They might need to do so without Alexander Semin for a bit, though. He’s out with a lower-body injury and while Carrera writes that the extent of the injury is unknown, he was scratched from the team’s games this weekend.

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.