The Carolina Hurricanes played one of their best five-on-five hockey games of the year but still came up short as the Washington Capitals defeated them, 4-2 in front of 17,737 at the PNC Arena on Friday night.
Capitals goalie Philipp Grubauer made 39 saves to steal the win for the visitors.
After jumping out to a 1-0 lead in the first period on a beautiful goal by Jordan Staal, the Canes were dominating play while out-shooting the Caps, 13-10. They were able to kill off the first penalty by Eric Staal in the opening period, but another call on the captain which carried forward into the second period cost his team.
Cam Ward had trouble handling a puck near the post and Marcus Johansson pounded it in past the goalie to tie things up just 41 seconds into the second. Ward stopped the puck initially but did not have the leg strength to hold the post and Johansson pushed it in.
The Caps would take the lead on another powerplay goal eight minutes later when Tuomo Ruutu was called for holding. John Carlson beat Ward from the blueline on a puck the goalie did not get in front of.
The Hurricanes would tie things up shortly later on a powerplay goal of their own when Andrej Sekera got a shot through to Grubauer. The goalie allowed a rare rebound, and Riley Nash jumped all over it to make it 2-2.
But the Caps were not done yet and scored a third powerplay goal in the period when Troy Brouwer tipped in a slow shot by Mike Green. Green broke his stick on the play and did not get all he wanted on the puck, but it didn't matter as the goal turned out to be the game winner.
Try as they might in the third, the Canes could not light the lamp again on the rookie goaltender, who improved his record to 4-0-1. Alexander Semin did get one puck under Grubauer, but it rolled to the post and trickled out, instead of in.
Alex Ovechkin scored an empty-netter at the end of the game, his 400th career goal, to finish things off.
The win evens Carolina's record to 14-14-7 and keeps them in fourth place in the Metropolitan Division, six points behind second place Washington, but just three points out of seventh place.
Some will question Kirk Muller's decision to go with Ward in this game, as Justin Peters has been the hotter goalie and has done well against this opponent in the past. Washington coach Adam Oates went the opposite way, going with his hot rookie instead of regular, Braden Holtby.
The Canes will fly right after the game to Tampa for a match against the Lightning Saturday night.
- At one time Cam Ward had allowed three goals on 20 shots, but he played a solid third period and kept his team in the game. He was badly outplayed by Grubauer though, who was making saves on breakaways by Jeff Skinner, Jordan Staal, and Eric Staal, as well as holding steady while being pressured in the crease.
- The Canes finished with 41 shots on goal, but also missed the net 22 times and had 23 shots blocked for a total of 86 attempted shots. The Caps had a total of 42 attempted shots. (29, 7, and 6). E. Staal, Semin, and Skinner had six shots on goal each. J. Staal had five.
- The team was credited with 34 hits and were led by Jay Harrison with seven and J. Staal with six.
- Eric Staal won 67% of his faceoffs and Manny Malhotra won 57%. The team was at 55% for the game.