WASHINGTON — Both the Washington Capitals and the Carolina Hurricanes played their first game since the Christmas break on Thursday night at Capital One Arena. For the Canes, it was their first appearance since the 5-3 win against the Boston Bruins on Sunday, but they left those good vibes behind in a lackadaisical 3-1 loss to Washington.
The Canes came out with good effort and were able to draw three penalties in the first period, but were unable to convert on the man advantage. The Canes struggled to generate chances on transition, either via dump and chase or by carrying. The main issue was that, with an umbrella power play strategy, when the shot is blocked from the point that can also generate a shorthanded chance, which we saw on the final opportunity of the night.
On the other hand, the Caps had one chance in the first on the power play and were able to generate the same number of shots. Their 1-3-1 formation forced the Canes’ PK to make quick decisions which can pull them out of position and generate a ton of shots on goal.
To start the second period the Caps generated a long offensive zone possession. At multiple times the Canes had a chance to clear, but none was more costly than when Calvin de Haan gave up the puck in the slot to Chandler Stephenson who was able to bury the puck over Petr Mrazek’s glove. Mrazek had stood on his head to keep the game tied up to this point. He made multiple sliding and diving saves through the first and second period and was holding strong allowing the Canes to try to take the all-important first goal on a road trip, but it was to no avail.
In the very next possession, Andrei Svechnikov took a penalty for goaltender interference after being pushed into Braden Holtby by John Carlson. Upon leaving the box, Svechnikov immediately took an interference call when he played the puck too soon coming out of the box.
The Canes successfully killed both penalties which gave them momentum in the middle of the second period, but they were unable to convert on any of their chances. WIth 2:44 left in the second, Brett Pesce took a hooking penalty which led to a T.J. Oshie goal on the power play. Oshie scored his 11th of the year and his third power-play goal when he re-directed a John Carlson shot from the point.
In the third period, Mrazek continued his strong play. However, the Canes struggled to produce any sustained chances in the offensive zone. Sloppy passing and turnovers led to plenty of Caps chances without many of their own.
With eight minutes left in the game, while skating towards the boards, Justin Williams made contact with Matt Niskanen which caused him to collide with Clark Bishop and sent the Caps defensman into the boards head first. Niskanen left the ice, fans called for a penalty, but the refs recognized the incidental contact and brought the puck to the neutral zone.
On the ensuing possession, Micheal Ferland broke in on a rush and put a puck on net. Sebastian Aho was able to clean up the rebound for the Canes’ first goal. The goal sparked the Canes who looked dangerous after they were able to break through. They played with the speed and determination they were lacking in the first two and a half periods. With a sustained offensive zone presence they were able to draw a high-stick from Michal Kempny with just over three minutes left, just as Mrazek started sprinting to the bench for the extra attacker.
During the power play, the Canes put two consecutive shots off the post with an empty net, and forced Holtby into a superb stop on Svechnikov. Mrazek headed to the bench with just over two minutes left for the extra attacker, but the Canes were unable to score with the extra man. Carlson finished it off into the empty net with just under a minute to go.
The Hurricanes looked frustrated and lost before the Aho goal in the third. Once he scored, they came back alive and showed their skill and ability. They have to find a way to play this way for a full 60 minutes and not just after they score a goal.
The Caps now have earned a point in 16 out of their last 21 games against the Hurricanes. Hopefully, the Canes can use tonight to shake off the rust before playing the basement-dwelling Devils on Saturday.
They Said It
[On the power play:] Our entires were terrible, it has been bad all year and it’s frustrating. You work on it a lot and our best players need to be the best players at that time. They just let off the gas, and it’s inexcusable, but that’s the difference in the game.
[On the second intermission and the message heading to the third:] play a period like we can. It’s frustrating to watch us go through the motions for two periods. We just got going in the third. We got one and we got going and got back into the game. We got nothing on the power play at the end and that’s been the Achilles heel all year. We don’t have the killer instinct that we need.
We have been using the same guys all year, I keep throwing out the same guys, maybe I need to shake it up. But that’s not a long-term solution. Our execution is really poor. At the end it’s really tough because the ice is bad you could see that two or three passes are mulling around and jumping over sticks. At that point it’s not the game, the game was lost in the first period.
[On the break:] They had the same break. I think we just weren’t ready to go like we needed to be, and that’s on me. We talked about it but I should have done something different, I don’t know what, but we weren’t ready to go. We talked about it against that team at this time of the year and where we are in the standings.
[On goaltending:] It was really good. Can’t fault him on anything, he made good saves to keep us in the game. At least we had a chance and that’s because Petr played really well.
We were feeling our way through it on a little break and you could certainly see that. At the end of the day you look at the box score and you can see the tale of the game. They scored a power play goal and we didn’t. Mrazek was great, gives us an opportunity every night.
[On the Niskanen hit:] I don’t know what happened, I was looking myself to see what happened and to see if I did something inadvertently, I’m glad he skated off.
[On the time off:] It was the same for both teams, I don’t think we were ready enough to play in the first or the second periods. We had way too many turnovers and they are a top team in the league. They can score, so we should not give them that many opportunities.
In the third period I think we played alright. We shot everything at the net and we got some chances. It’s just not enough. Over and over again it’s the same thing, we have to play a full 60 minutes.
[On what was missing on the power play:] Work. We didn’t work quite enough, that’s hard work on the PP too. They worked hard and helped each other, but that’s what was missing.