The Carolina Hurricanes scored four times during a dominating second period, then held on to beat a lethargic Washington Capitals team last night at the Verizon Center, 5-2. The visitors scored on a penalty shot, on a powerplay, while at even-strength, and had two short-handed goals as they lit the lamp in about every situation they could.
Eric Staal would start off the scoring near the end of the opening period on a penalty shot. As the center was skating in toward the goal, he was tripped from behind. The skater, goalie, and the puck all ended up in the net, so there was a brief video review to see if the play was a goal, but it was determined that the net was knocked off the pegs before the puck crossed the line.
It mattered not though as Staal buried the shot, high glove side.
The second period started off with Joni Pitkanen taking a boarding penalty as he pushed a stationary Alex Semin face first into the boards. The Russian was not hurt and returned to action, but he will probably be a bit sore after that hit.
During the powerplay, Matt Cullen made a beautiful move as he passed the puck to himself off the boards, beating one Cap out of his own end and into the neutral zone. As he skated into the offensive zone on the right, he cut across the middle of the ice and beat the goalie high glove side, leaving Mike Green in his wake.
Shortly afterwards, the Canes were putting on more pressure in the Washington zone when Rod Brind'Amour was called for tripping. But this time, Patrick Eaves would be the one breaking out of his zone with the puck, and once again he would beat the goalie high glove side, this time from the left circle.
Thanks to Matt Cullen and Chad LaRose, the team has been on a roll picking up short-handed goals lately, but the last time they scored two "shorties" in a single game was back in 2006 when LaRose teamed up with Kevyn Adams for the honor.
Both teams battled for a bit before the Canes lit the lamp once again at about the 16 minute mark. Ray Whitney made a nice move and beat Washington netminder Michal Neuvirth, but the puck hit the post. Chad LaRose made a perfect reflex play and knocked the rebound into the net. The pesky forward increased his career high to 14 goals so far for the season with the marker.
At this point even with the score 4-0, the Canes were not finished yet. During a powerplay opportunity, Patrick Eaves skated smoothly through the zone, created some space for himself, and beat the goalie up high once again.
The Caps would finally dent the scorecard when Alex Semin was able to find the back of the net with just three seconds left in the period. As he fell to his knees, he still rifled a shot toward Cam Ward. The puck glanced off Tim Gleason's skate and into the net. Semin seems to have a habit of scoring late period goals against the Hurricanes as he buried a game-winner earlier in the season with just nine clicks left.
The third period was pretty uneventful. With about two minutes remaining, Sergei Fedorov scored a meaningless goal, and that wrapped things up.
The game turned out the be a vital one for the Canes because both Florida and Pittsburgh won. They now find themselves in sole possession of ninth place with a slim two point lead, but idle Buffalo has two games in hand.
It was a nice win for the Canes, but Washington was not on top of their game and they looked distracted. While the Caps mustered 41 shots on goal, they did not have many high quality scoring chances, much to the credit of the Hurricanes team defense.
Patrick Eaves looked like a different player out there. He skated with purpose and his shots were perfectly placed, just under the crossbar. If he could be counted on to play like that more often, it would be a huge lift to the team.
Cam Ward was solid if not necessarily spectacular. He did make some fine saves on two or three bad turnovers in his own end by Seidenberg and Wallin.
Alexander Ovechkin was pretty quiet, even with his six shots on goal. Mike Green led the Caps with eight.
Matt Cullen had an outstanding, all around game and was voted the number one star. He finished with a goal and two assists.
Caps goalie, Michal Neuvirth did not look sharp as he was filling in for a sick Jose Theodore.
The scorekeepers credited Washington with a total of 28 giveaways compared to 8 for Carolina.
Once again, Tuomo Ruutu led the team with seven hits. Niclas Wallin chipped in with five on the backend.
Scott Walker did not have much of a chance to find his game. He had a very quiet 2:53 of ice time. There was no report if he was re-injured or if the coaches were just being overly cautious. Tim Conboy was on the ice for three minutes while Dwight Helminen sneaked on for four.
Dennis Seidenberg led the team with three takeaways and four blocked shots.
Next up for the Canes will be Calgary at the RBC on Friday night.
We expect a quiet trade deadline day for Carolina, but Cory and I will be keeping an eye on things and will be posting news and analysis as we see it.