Alexander Semin’s return to D.C. didn't go according to script. Instead, Braden Holtby stole the show with a 33-save shutout as the Capitals topped the Hurricanes, 3-0. Here's a closer look at Tuesday's loss.
1. Kirk Muller’s decision to start Chad LaRose on the top line with Eric Staal and Semin backfired horribly, and by the time Jiri Tlusty was reunited with his usual linemates the story of the game had seemingly already been written. It wasn't anything that LaRose did or didn't do — in fact, if some good comes out of it over the long haul, LaRose seemed to regained some of his urgency in the corners playing on the top line — but if it ain’t broke, don't fix it. The experiment started in the Islanders game Tuesday, but even then the come-from-behind momentum in that win began when — you guessed it — Tlusty briefly rejoined Semin and Eric Staal for Staal’s goal. With the defense in shambles and Jeff Skinner out, Carolina is struggling as a one-line team right now. But that's still better than being a two-thirds-of-a-line team.
2. One move that may have paid of was the recall of Zac Dalpe and his eventual slotting with Jordan Staal as the second line right wing. Dalpe brings Patrick Dwyer’s speed but with more scoring acumen, and when Skinner does return it could make the second line even more potent. It could also boost the third-line scoring some, as Dwyer has had a great start and deserves quality minutes.
3. Thumbs down to the Caps fans that booed Semin each time he touched the puck in his return to Verizon Center. Semin was nearly a point-per-game player during his time in Washington and still ranks fifth in team history in goals, 14th in points and eighth in game-winning goals. Semin deserved better, and if Capitals fans (the ones that booed; many have missed No. 28) want to see how you thank a player who has moved on, watch the reception Brandon Sutter — a much less accomplished player — receives from the Carolina faithful on Thursday.
Number To Know
21-7 — The goal differential on the season for the Hurricanes in their five Southeast Division games — all losses. In the team's 13 non-division games, Carolina has scored 43 goals (3.31 per game), but is managing just 1.4 goals against Southeast foes.
Cam Ward — Thirty-seven saves in a 3-0 loss doesn't scream huge outing, but Ward kept Carolina in the game even though they never really managed to get in it. While the Capitals came away with an easy two points, Joel Ward left with visions of No. 30 in his nightmares. It's unfortunate that the Hurricanes’ netminder didn't receive a better fate.
Marc-Andre Gragnani — Gragnani’s time with Carolina was short-lived. Gragnani — who replaced Michal Jordan on the Carolina roster — looked overwhelmed despite his age (a relative graybeard at almost 26 when compared to the d-men Muller & Co. have played this season) and experience (74 NHL games, 300-plus in the AHL), and played just 11 shifts. That led to Wednesday’s decision to take a mulligan on the Gragnani-for-Jordan shuffling and bring Jordan back to Raleigh and return Gragnani to Charlotte.