WASHINGTON — The Washington Capitals came into tonight’s game as the only team in the Metropolitan Division that has secured a playoff position. The Carolina Hurricanes, meanwhile, were a loss away from playoff elimination.
So, of course, the Hurricanes dominated long stretches and received timely goaltending Friday night on their way to a 4-1 win that still kept their faint playoff hopes alive.
The Canes looked more loose and comfortable with the pressure off. They were creative through the neutral zone and did a great job of creating turnovers in the offensive zone. After 70-plus games the Canes seem to have found three solid lines.
The Canes were able to control much of the play in the first two periods but struggled to get quality chances. The scoring eventually opened in the second period when Michal Kempny was able to blast a goal in from the point to beat Scott Darling to put the Caps up 1-0.
But giving up the opening goal seemed to kick the Canes offense into gear. The Canes came back to score four unanswered to win the game 4-1.
The Co-Captain Returns
Justin Faulk returned to the lineup tonight for the first time since his injury on March 24th. Faulk and Jaccob Slavin actually looked good and natural early in the game. In the first period, the Caps brought the puck into the zone on a two-on-two and crossed after gaining the blue line. Both players knew exactly what to do and kept on their respective men which forced a low danger chance.
The communication was the best that Slavin has had with any defenseman not named Brett Pesce. These two have not done that historically, which has led to a ton of issues. Both players still had some issues with zone exits, which led to unnecessary chances, but their defense looked good.
The Canes’ first two goals were created by the pairing. The first saw Slavin skate by the entire Caps team before getting the puck to the net for the finish. The second goal was created by Faulk. He got the puck near the blue line, toe-dragged around a defender, skated to the slot and buried the shot.
Darling Stays Strong
Much like in the game against the New Jersey Devils, Darling got early saves and looked composed. All of his movements looked deliberate and purposeful. He was anticipating chances, sliding across the crease already setting up to make the save on the shot that was about to occur. This was on display when he made a fantastic glove save from the splits off of a two-on-one early in the second period after Holtby made a similar save at the other end of the ice.
Darling came up huge multiple times in the game, the most notable of which came in the second period. Darling was able to fend off multiple cross-ice one-timers as well as clean up rebound chances. Late into the second, Darling preserved a one-goal lead on a shot that everyone in the arena thought went in, including the light operator, but he slid across to make the save.
The Canes return home Saturday to host the New York Rangers, somehow still with something to play for.
I feel like we dominated portions of the game. They had some sustained zone time possession which is to be expected, they are a skilled team. We knew coming in that we were going to have to play some time in our own zone and try not to get run around.
On his game tying goal:
Its big, we always talk about having a bump up shift after we score or get scored on, its a big shift, you can steal some momentum. We were able to do that and we took over from that point and were able to dominate.
He has leadership presence for sure. He has the presence on the power play, even though we weren’t very good on the power play. He’s physical, I saw him make a couple of big hits to get momentum on our side. He is a smart, skilled, veteran player and he makes the right decisions and makes the teammates around him better.
On the Final Stretch
Every win is sweet whether you are in the playoffs or out of the payoffs. At this point of the season it feels good to play a little bit of the spoiler coming in here. Washington is in a good spot but we were able to come in here and steal some points. There is always pride on the line it’s the NHL.
Going forward we know the depth in the organization and it’s fun to see the young guys have some success. It was fun to see Foegele get his first goal in his first game and it was reminiscent for me to see the smile on his face, its cool and its fun and it brings energy to the team.
On getting two wins in D.C
I felt good tonight, the guys played good tonight and kept the shots down. I think its a coincidence, maybe its my old goalie coach Mitch Korn. It’s his good energy that I’m getting when I’m here.
It’s been an adjustment all year for me. Not getting the fluffer shots but getting the grade-a chances. It has been a transition for me. Its hard but you’ve gotta do it.
On Faulk’s return
He’s great, when the puck is on his stick you know its getting out of the zone. He makes great plays offensively and is smart defensively. It was a great goal by him and we were happy to have him back.
On back to back strong performances
You just want to play good and keep getting better to finish on a good note. It feels nice and I feel like I’ve been trending this way in the past couple of months here, so it’s nice to see some results.
I’ve feel like I’ve been doing my thing pretty well since the New Year. The results haven’t been there and some games have gotten out of control. I’m just staying with the process and working hard every day to stay positive through a season that has been a roller coaster for me.
We were good, I liked the way we played in the first half of the game and the first 40 minutes. I thought that we we made a lot of plays and held onto the puck. I thought our goaltender was real good and made some big saves when we broke down. We broke down a couple of times and and broke down on the breakaway.
Did you factor in Darling’s last start when you were here?
Derek Ryan’s goal
You know it was huge, it was a big momentum swing there. That’s the response and the answer that we want. We were fortunate to get one and level the playing field so we didn’t have to chase the game.
On the play down the stretch
I think you can encapsulate our season on that Orlov play. It’s two to one, were on a line change we only had four and that’s how he got through the middle. We make a save and go down to score to make it 3-1.
We’ve had too many of those that go in and its 2-2 and then you lose 3-2. We’ve had too many of those games where you play well but you lose a point or two points
Well he’s a smart player and makes a great first pass out of the D-zone. He’s been a real great partner for Slavin and you know what hes a veteran guy for our team. He gives us the opportunity to make veteran plays and settle the guys down.
Are the playoffs still a realistic goal?
Rank the Performances
Here’s your chance to weigh in on how you think the team performed tonight. Upvote the players you think played well and downvote the ones who didn’t.