Game Analysis: Hurricanes At Capitals

Elias Lindholm with a check against the Capitals on Thursday night - Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Hurricanes bounced back from their lost Tuesday at Pittsburgh, knocking off the Capitals in Washington, 3-2, to move to 2-1-1 on the season. Elias Lindholm got his first NHL goal, Alexander Semin scored against his old team, and Nathan Gerbe had the game-winner, while Anton Khudobin stopped 30 of 32 shots to move to 2-0 to start his Hurricanes career.

The Hurricanes rallied from behind again, twice erasing Washington leads before Nathan Gerbe broke the tie with his third goal of the season to give Carolina a 3-2 lead, a score that newcomer Anton Khudobin held up with solid play in net. Fifth overall pick Elias Lindholm got his first career NHL goal, and Alexander Semin ripped home his first tally of the season on a two-man advantage for Carolina's other goals.

Three Observations

1. Those wondering about Lindholm’s ability to be an NHLer at 18 got another whiff of Swedish smelling salts Thursday. Not only did the rookie get his first NHL goal — a fluky bounce, but a smart play nonetheless — but his faceoff win on Semin’s 5-on-3 tally was a huge moment in Lindholm’s maturation as a pro. Lindholm was 8 of 13 on faceoffs and may have nudged Riley Nash out of the 3C spot and found a home in Carolina’s top nine just four games into his career.

2. Washington’s first goal was a huge lapse by Khudobin, but beyond that the new No. 2 in net (or 1B?) was again magnificent for the Hurricanes. The Capitals other goal came on a great deflection by Alex Ovechkin, a play that was pretty much impossible to prevent from a goalie standpoint. Khudobin also got help from the team in front of him — Carolina blocked 11 shots and minimized the Capitals’ chances on five power plays.

3. Jeff Skinner is putting up points — his two assists Thursday give him a team-high five points — but he has a long way to go to earn coach Kirk Muller’s trust as a 20-minute-a-night player. Skinner played less than 12 minutes against Washington and just 9:28 at even strength and was at fault on Ovechkin’s goal when his weak clearing attempt served as a one-time pass to to Caps d-man Steve Oleksy, leading to Washington’s second goal. It's great that Skinner’s producing in limited minutes, but if he can couple that with solid — not spectacular, just solid — defensive play, the team has the potential to be great in the top nine.

Number To Know

4 — points in four games for Justin Faulk, ranking him among the league leaders for points by a defenseman. If you look down the list of defensemen who are putting up points so far in this young season, none if logging the kind of tough, shutdown minutes Faulk is. Just 108 games in to his NHL career, the 21-year-old Faulk is playing like a Norris Trophy-capable blueliner.

Plus

Radek Dvorak — Prior to the season I asked on Twitter if the Hurricanes were better suited signing the always-steady Dvorak or pursuing a player with a little more pizzazz that the 36-year-old has left in his tank. Opinions varied, but Dvorak received the contract and made the Carolina brass look smart by scoring in the season’s first two games. But his best play of the young season came on Thursday's game-winning goal, and best I can tell no one is even talking about it. With the Hurricanes and Capitals knotted at 2 early in the third, Lindholm fed the puck to Dvorak just outside the Washington blue line and Dvorak slapped the puck in on Caps goalie Braden Holtby. Holtby worked the puck behind his own goal to defenseman John Carlson, but Dvorak had followed his shot and was right on Carlson when the puck arrived. Dvorak deftly pick-pocketed Carlson and found a streaking Justin Faulk in the slot. A scramble in front ensued, with Jordan Staal freeing the puck from the scrum and Gerbe finding it to Holtby's left and stuffing it in for the eventual game-winner. It was the perfect veteran play, and while Dvorak didn't even earn an assist for his efforts, he did his part to get two points for Carolina.

Minus

Riley Nash — Nash didn't win any of his six faceoffs and was supplanted on the third line by Lindholm for the third period. Nash joined the fourth line and had productive shift with Drayson Bowman and Brett Sutter, and if one had to guess you'd think Nash will probably stay on the fourth line for Friday’s home game against the Kings. The plan all along was for Lindholm to earn a top-nine spot, but given his injuries this offseason and camp, it's probably coming sooner than most expected.

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