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Aho and Teravainen Lift Hurricanes to Overtime Win in Washington

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The Finnish duo dazzled in Carolina’s fifth win of the preseason.

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at Washington Capitals Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Hurricanes took a flawless preseason record into Capitol One Arena on Friday night.

Three hours later, they brought their flawless preseason record with them when they left Capitol One Arena.

In what was a final audition for several players in Carolina’s lineup, the Hurricanes defeated a full-strength Washington Capitals club by a final score of 5-4 in overtime. They improved to 5-0-0 in the 2018 exhibition schedule.

For the Hurricanes, it was a big test for both young players trying to break in and established players trying to send a message.

Sebastian Aho did exactly that in the nation’s capital.

From the opening faceoff, his line, flanked by Teuvo Teravainen and Warren Foegele, was absolutely dominant. By the end of the opening frame, that trio had erased what was a 1-0 Capitals lead and flipped it around to a 2-1 lead for the visiting Hurricanes.

The first goal was created by Aho’s strong skating and puck control through the middle of the Caps’ zone, and it was finished (excuse the pun) by his fellow countryman Teravainen who tapped a loose puck into an open net.

The second goal was all thanks to the effort of Foegele, whose excellent preseason and training camp will (almost assuredly) lead to him starting the season in Raleigh. The 2014 fourth-round pick intercepted an errant pass in the neutral zone and spun it to Aho. He and Teravainen then played give-and-go and Aho sniped it five-hole on Braden Holtby to make it 2-1.

An early second-period powerplay rendered fruitful for Carolina’s duo of rookies. Martin Necas carried the puck through the neutral zone and found second-overall draft pick Andrei Svechnikov, who then found a hole short-side on Holtby and increased the lead to two goals.

Washington was, again, at full-strength, though. And they didn’t go down quietly.

Just 11 seconds after Svechnikov’s second goal of the preseason, a failed breakout pass from Brett Pesce resulted in a partial breakaway for Jayson Megna, who found a way to chip the puck over the shoulder of Petr Mrazek to cut the Caps’ deficit in half.

Then, with just over two minutes to go in the middle frame, a long breakout pass and some slow reacting from the Carolina defense resulted in a two-on-one chance for Tom Wilson and Alex Ovechkin. The Russian superstar, who beat aspiring Russian-superstar Svechnikov to the net, was able to tap in the open rebound and he tied the game at three.

Early in the final frame, the Hurricanes got another powerplay chance, and they capitalized on it, like they have so many times in this preseason.

A Teravainen slap shot from the top of the left circle bounced off the end-boards and onto the stick of Valentin Zykov who, from behind the goal line, threw the puck off of Holtby and into the net to give Carolina another lead.

Zykov’s trickery led to his third goal and sixth point of the preseason, but it didn’t end the scoring in this game.

A failed clearing attempt from Necas resulted in a grade-A opportunity for Andre Burakovsky who, from the slot, picked the top corner on Mrazek and tied the game yet again and forced overtime.

It didn’t last very long, though.

19 seconds into the 3-on-3 period, Jaccob Slavin’s breakout pass led to another gorgeous passing sequence from Teravainen and Aho, and this one resulted in the game-winning goal. Aho’s second goal of the night.

It wasn’t perfect, but you don’t have to be perfect to have a perfect record, which the Hurricanes still have after five preseason tilts.

It was coming out party of sorts for Sebastian Aho, which is weird to say given that we already know how special of a hockey player he is. But, despite that, a lot of questions have been asked in training camp about his ability to play in the middle of the ice. It’s just one preseason game, but if it was any indication at all of what he can or will be as a center in the NHL, there’s good reason to be even more excited about the 21-year-old’s future.

He was nothing short of the best player on the ice in Washington on Friday, and his linemates not only hung on for the ride; they also had marvelous games in their own rights.

That trio ended the night with a combined three goals and nine points against a Washington lineup that looked almost exactly like the one they will ice on opening night.

Elsewhere, there were some disappointing performances. Neither Necas or Svechnikov stood out in an overly-positive way, outside of their combination on the powerplay goal. Svechnikov took three penalties (two slashing, one tripping) and Necas’ poor clearing attempt was what forced the tying goal in the third period.

The road team also took six penalties. You can’t afford to give that Washington club six opportunities on the powerplay. Carolina was able to kill five of those six penalties, but they were playing with fire, in that regard.

There were a couple of goals on Friday that Petr Mrazek might want to have back. Scott Darling will get the last preseason game for Carolina on Sunday against the Predators, the team Darling dominated on Tuesday. If he has another strong showing, I think it would be safe to assume that it’ll be Darling’s crease on October 4 for the season opener.

This likely will be the end of the line for the likes of Greg McKegg and Patrick Brown, a pair of AHL veterans who stuck around through five preseason games but are bound to get cut prior to the preseason finale. Janne Kuokkanen and Saku Maenalanen both showed some good things during camp and the exhibition games, but it looks they, too, will be making their way back to Charlotte.

Some tough decisions lie ahead for Rod Brind’Amour, Don Waddell, and the rest of the Hurricanes’ braintrust as they will likely make another round of cuts prior to Sunday. On the bright side, instead of not having enough good players like in years past, they might just have too many.

That’s a good problem to have.