What better way to usher in the new age of Hurricanes ownership, a fresh start for the franchise, than to...um...
...okay, there’s not a good way to spin what we just witnessed last night.
The Hurricanes once again proved strong against the Eastern Conference-leading Capitals, only to blow a 3-2 lead with under 3:30 to go in the game. All I’m asking for is overtime, capisce?
The saddest part is that the tying and game-winning goals weren’t perfectly executed plays by the Capitals. They weren’t Ovechkin blasts, Kuznetsov close-range snipes or T.J. Oshie finesses.
Nope. They were just well-timed opportunities brought on by lousy play by Carolina.
Don’t get me wrong: much of the third period, the Canes were showing great defensive skill in keep their lead.
Cam Ward made an incredible rolling save on Kuznetsov, towering pad over pad and getting the glove up high enough to keep the shot out. Justin Williams lays out and flings his stick to tip the puck away from Dmitry Orlov, who was staring at a largely-empty net.
But how you play 75 percent of the period doesn’t mean a thing if you fail the other 25 percent, especially the way the Canes did.
First, our All Star defenseman Noah Hanifin does yet another not-so-All-Star thing, playing the puck back to the center ice where Brett Connolly was waiting and, right on time, knocks it through Wardo’s five hole.
PICK 6 FOR @bconnolly8! #CapsCanes #ALLCAPS pic.twitter.com/TsAQFXlweD— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) January 13, 2018
After the shock of “oh my god we really just did that” set in, it almost looks like a reasonable pass: there are three Canes in the vicinity. But Connolly has the best position to find a pass that’s even a little bit off, as he’s nestled between two Canes, with the third, Marcus Kruger, much nearer to Hanifin, leaving a lot of space in front of Connolly’s stick to cleanly corral a puck. And worse yet, I’m not even sure I can point out who of the three Hanifin is trying to pass it to.
Then, the most unforgivable of the unforgivables. With ten seconds left, the Canes lost an offensive-zone face off, allowing the Capitals to start a break with a pass from John Carlson to Alexander Ovechkin, who speeds into the offensive zone.
I know what you’re thinking: Great, the last person we need with the puck.
But whoa, that’s crazy — Ovechkin actually loses the puck without much contest, and Brock McGinn is there to clean it up and send it to overtime.
Okay, so I can’t be the only one who thought McGinn had to have come away with that puck. It looked and even sounded like he had hit the puck with the back of his stick.
It wasn’t so, but that’s okay. It’s not a turnover in the crease or for a wide open shot. However, it is a turnover to one of the deadliest passers in the NHL: Mr. Nicklas Backstrom.
Now panic is building a little bit as Backstrom passes across the crease to Beagle, but Jaccob Slavin is there to stop the puck. And, I mean, our defensemen have blocked shot after shot in the past two games against the Caps. The least he can do is get a little foot or stick poke...right?
BEAGS TO THE RESCUE! #CapsCanes #ALLCAPS pic.twitter.com/PpUwi8ScmJ— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) January 13, 2018
Forget points. Forget shot totals. Honestly, even forget wins for a second.
Ward really needed this win. He’s in the vicinity of the dark hole that Scott Darling recently occupied earlier this season, and he had made the saves to get Carolina into a position to win 3-2. Instead, he’s taken by storm twice late in the game thanks to sloppy play and the skaters in front of him failing to execute.
The Canes have a day to regroup after this one, and a bye week on the horizon, but even after the seven- and eight-goal blowouts versus Toronto and Boston, this one just feels like it has a more stinging pain to it: a day that started with celebration and ended with deep grief.