The Carolina Hurricanes fought back twice from a two goal deficit, but ended up losing to the Washington Capitals in a shootout last night, 5-4. The tightly contested hockey game had a bit of everything, from wide open offense in the first two periods, to tight checking defense in the third. While the netminders allowed four goals apiece, each of them also made several high quality saves.
The Hurricanes salvaged a valuable point by tying the contest in regulation, but would have much preferred earning two. In the locker room afterwards, it was one dejected bunch. Eric Staal especially looked dispirited and appeared to be completely spent of energy.
"It's tough to lose that way," Staal said. "We really wanted to finish this road trip with a win and right now it's tough to take."
The game started off with the Caps controlling play, but Cam Ward made a couple of outstanding saves and allowed his team to get their legs under them. About midway through the period, Eric Staal and Erik Cole worked their magic together in the Caps' zone. Staal took a loose puck and fed Cole who beat Jose Theodore with a well placed shot giving the Hurricanes a short-lived lead.
About a minute afterwards, Mike Green tied the score as he ripped one past Ward. Late in the period with Nic Wallin in the box, Alex Ovechkin scored his 49th goal of the season on a shot that looked like it surprised the Hurricanes goalie. The period ended with the Caps up 2-1.
Just 30 seconds into the second period, Eric Staal took an interference penalty and the Caps deadly powerplay unit took the ice again. This time Alexander Semin reached around Anton Babchuk to sweep the puck past Ward and made the score 3-1.
The Canes never gave up in this game though as Ray Whitney skated deep into the zone and put a shot right on Theodore. While the goalie stopped the initial shot, he left a juicy rebound for Eric Staal and number 12 slipped it in for his 33rd of the season. No one was back for Washington because all five players were attacking in the Hurricanes zone on the play.
Bruce Boudreau was not happy about it either as he blasted his team in the post game press conference. "I knew if we did not score on that play that it would come back to bite us," he said. "You can't allow Carolina with their speed and talent, that kind of opportunity. I knew that it would end up in the back of our net."
A bit later with the score 3-2, Erik Cole was called for a weird high-sticking penalty, and the Caps powerplay struck again. This time Michael Nylander found an open Nicklas Backstrom, who made no mistake. Eric Staal was behind the play because he had been knocked down behind the Caps net by Ovechkin when he was trying for a short-handed opportunity.
But once again the Canes would come back as Erik Cole found Ray Whitney in front of the net and Whitney fired in the shot making the score 4-3. There were just 7.3 seconds left in the second period when the goal light went on.
While both teams were playing wide open hockey the first two periods, the third period was a cautious, tight checking one. Both teams only managed six shots on goal. The Hurricanes were the only team to light the lamp though as Niclas Wallin hit the post and scored with a blast from the point at about the 10 minute mark. It was Wallin's second goal of the year.
The teams played evenly until overtime when the Hurricanes seemed to have the jump. Eric Staal drew a hooking penalty behind the Caps net and the visitors had a commanding 4-on-3 advantage for a full two minutes. At times the powerplay unit looked a bit disheveled, but they did manage to get a couple of nice chances at the net. Joni Pitkanen sneaked in and had a wide open blast, but Theodore gloved it and the OT ended up scoreless.
The shootout had a familiar ending for the Hurricanes as both Semin and Ovechkin scored for the Caps. Tuomo Ruutu and Jussi Jokinen were stopped and the final score was Caps 5, Canes 4.
I spoke with Joni Pitkanen after the game and he said that he was feeling much better than he was before the Dallas game. The defenseman had an excellent night as he led the team with over 26 minutes of ice time and finished with a (+3). He would have loved to have made that slapper near the end of OT though.
Chad LaRose was also looking bummed out over the outcome, but he was nice enough to answer a couple of questions.
Ray Whitney really looked fired up for this game. He finished with a goal and an assist and had a team high (+4).
Dennis Seidenberg led the team with five hits. Several players had three each.
Eric Staal led with six shots on goal, as the team finished with 32. He had a couple of really good chances to score late but could not get the puck past Theodore.
The Canes lost the services of Patrick Eaves early on as he got slammed into the boards at an awkward angle and had to leave the contest.
It was a pretty chippy game, especially in the second period as both teams combined for 10 penalties in that 20 minute time frame alone.
The Hurricanes allowed three powerplay goals in this game and two of the causing penalties seemed to be unnecessary. (Staal's interference and Cole's high sticking).
While the Hurricanes failed to secure the extra point tonight, the good news is that all the other teams in the hunt with them also lost, so they did not lose any ground in the standings. That leaves little comfort though when the other teams have games in hand.
In the post game presser, Coach Maurice said he was happy with the effort, but he mentioned that with this rough patch in the schedule, (6 games in 9 nights), you have to scratch and claw for any points you can get.
The team will have a few days now before their next matchup, which will be against New Jersey on Wednesday night. They have 11 games left in the season with eight of them at home. Within the next day or so, we will do some analysis on the blog to see what games they have left, and compare them with the competition.