The Carolina Hurricanes lost a tough one to the Washington Capitals Thursday night as Alexander Semin scored the game-winner with just 10.9 seconds on the clock. The Canes built leads of 1-0, and 2-1, only to watch the game, as well as the important points, slip away.
Scott Walker opened the scoring just three minutes into the game by re-directing a Josef Melichar shot past Brent Johnson. It was Walker's first tally of the year.
Later in that period, the Caps attempted to answer Carolina's fast start with increased pressure in the Hurricanes zone. Cam Ward was equal to the task at that time and turned back all 15 Washington shots.
Near the end of the first period, Wade Brookbank made the mistake of dropping the gloves with Donald Brashear. The first reason that it was a mistake is because Brashear landed punch after punch at the back of Brookbank's head and the Carolina enforcer failed to land a single blow of his own before he tumbled to the ice. The next reason that it was a mistake is because Carolina had just won a faceoff in their offensive zone and Anton Babchuk had the puck and was ready for a shot.
That is quite simply not a smart time to accept a challenge from the other team's tough guy.
The Carolina lead held up until the the second period when Sergei Fedorov broke into the clear and roofed one over Ward. Defenseman Nic Wallin went to cover the puck, (Ovechkin), but no one picked up the wide open Fedorov.
Later in the second period Brookbank took another penalty as he inadvertently lifted the puck into the crowd for a delay of game call. The Canes were able to kill the ensuing powerplay and hit Brookbank as he was breaking into the clear after leaving the box. The Carolina tough guy was stopped by Johnson, but as Joe Corvo got the puck back in the Hurricanes zone, he found Tuomo Ruutu breaking into the clear and hit him with a perfect pass.
The red-hot winger made no mistake and gave Carolina the lead once again, 2-1. Ruutu now has points in five consecutive games.
The third period started out with the Hurricanes attacking and the team ended up earning a powerplay. Sergei Fedorov was called for hooking, then Brent Johnson lifted the puck out of play for a gift 5 on 3 opportunity for Carolina.
But the Canes looked much too casual with their passes and at first, were unable to generate any decent shots on goal. Near the end of the sequence though, Rod Brind'Amour broke clear and looked to have a good chance, but couldn't handle the puck well enough to put a shot past Johnson.
The teams went back and forth in the third until Alexander Semin took a close-in shot which seemed to hit a skate or something, and somehow found it's way past Cam Ward. There was just 2:49 left on the clock.
That was not all for Semin though, as he hit the eventual game-winner a short time later.
Needless to say, the Canes were not happy campers in the dressingroom after the game. Joe Corvo looked upset. Tuomo Ruutu said "We thought we had the game, and that was the problem. We've got to play 60 minutes to win. A team like this is going to come after us. We have to learn from this."
Nic Wallin was trying to put things into perspective and said that as tough as this loss was, the team had to put this game behind them and get ready to play again tomorrow night.
The big question is, can they put this one behind them quickly? Will they come out angry against the Senators, or will they come out like snake-bitten, hard luck players who are feeling sorry for themselves?
We will see.
Maybe the Canes should put Ruutu, Helminen, and LaRose on the powerplays? Once again, there was no point production from the top two lines on the team.
How many points can this team squander in the final minutes, and still be able to make the playoffs? Giving up the game-winner to the Oilers with a bit over a minute left was bad enough, but this one is really tough to swallow. These points could make a difference in April.
Did Wade Brookbank earn 5 minutes for fighting, or 5 minutes for being a punching bag? He never delivered a single shot in the rumble, and as mentioned earlier it was ill-timed. While some fights can charge up a team, the Carolina bench had their heads down after this one.
Can Cam Ward quickly regain his confidence after this kind of ending? He may need to wait a bit because Leighton will probably get the next call in this back-to-back scenario.
The Canes only won 36% of their faceoffs.
The team had 15 give-aways after only allowing 6 in previous successful games.
Anton Babchuk led the team with five blocked shots and finished with a plus-1.
(There was no word about Rod Brind'Amour, who left at the end of the game bleeding badly from the facial area. I assume he was in getting stitched up after the game)
I will be staying in Washington for a couple more days and will be unable to attend the Ottawa game Friday night. The wife and I are celebrating our anniversary, so we will be taking in some sights and spending some extra time together. In the meantime, it will be up to Cory to keep us all up-to-date if he has time. (Appreciate it, Cory).
I would be remiss if I didn't say many thanks to my better half for putting up with my shenanigans for 24 years. The time has gone by quickly.