They beat the Caps in D.C. in early October, but in the long road since then, Washington has propelled to the top of the conference. Meanwhile, the young Canes have gone up and down and have failed to produce much of any extended consistency. Game one of a seven-game homestand presented them with a big opportunity.
The Hurricanes had lost three consecutive games entering Saturday night’s game. If they were to break that streak and get a desperately needed win, they had to do it against one of the very best teams in the NHL.
Mission accomplished for Rod Brind’Amour’s club.
It wasn’t a perfect 60 minutes for the Hurricanes, but led by Warren Foegele, they gutted their way to a big 6-4 win over the Capitals in a rematch from last season’s Eastern Conference quarterfinal.
An extended 5-on-3 opportunity for the Hurricanes in the first period led to the game’s first goal.
Shortly after the first of two penalties expired and the game went to 5-on-4, Ryan Dzingel carried the puck in over the blue line, dropped the puck off to Nino Niederreiter along the wall, and Nino sent a slick feed to the front of the net that was slapped home by Lucas Wallmark.
The goal extended Wallmark’s career-best point streak to six games. Niederreiter’s point streak extended to four games.
Washington’s chances mounted as the period went on, but Petr Mrazek was sharp and the Hurricanes held the Capitals off the scoreboard through 20 minutes.
The first shift of the second period ended up being a huge one for Carolina, and a player that continues to burn the Capitals.
Off the opening face off of period two, Jaccob Slavin fed Jordan Staal up ice, and Staal found Warren Foegele all alone for a one-timer. Foegele beat Braden Holtby for his seventh goal of the season to extend the Carolina lead to 2-0.
3:18 later, the Capitals answered back. A puck jumped over the stick of Jake Gardiner at the Canes’ blue line, and the bad bounce gave the Caps a 2-on-1 chance. Nic Dowd put the puck by Mrazek on the short side to put Washington on the board and make it a 2-1 game.
Less than two minutes later, though, the Hurricanes bounced right back and regained a two-goal lead.
Foegele forced a turnover at the Washington blue line and sprung a long 2-on-1 with Dougie Hamilton. Foegele threaded a pass by Alex Ovechkin and to the tape of Hamilton, who ripped home his 13th goal of the season and made it a 3-1 hockey game just over five minutes in the second period.
Ovechkin got some revenge at the 9:56 mark. On a power play opportunity for Washington, Ovi set himself up in his office and rifled a one-timer by a sprawling Mrazek to, again, cut the Carolina lead to one.
Not even a minute and a half later, Joel Edmundson took a tripping penalty in his own end, and it presented a huge potential turning point in the game.
Another power play tally for the Caps would’ve tied the game and put momentum in the wrong way. A kill would’ve been a huge lift for the home team, but they didn’t just get that.
Jordan Martinook centered a pass to Foegele, who whacked away in the crease and managed to slide the puck through and by Holtby. The shorthanded goal added cushion to the Canes’ lead yet again. Foegele’s goal was his second of the night, his eighth of the season, and his third shorty of the season, which is tied for the NHL lead.
It was also Carolina’s ninth shorthanded goal of the season, which leads the NHL.
Late in the middle frame, Nick Jensen went knee-to-knee with Foegele, and as Foegele fell to the ice, Ovechkin hit him with a drive-by elbow. The Canes’ bench was incensed, Jensen went to the box, Ovechkin didn’t, and the Canes had a power play.
That power play ended prematurely, though, thanks to an Andrei Svechnikov slashing minor. Neither team cracked the scoreboard again before the conclusion of the second period.
In the early moments of the third period, the Hurricanes went shorthanded again.
Foegele got called for tripping Jonas Siegenthaler, though many among the sellout crowd at PNC Arena disagreed with the call, and the Capitals took advantage.
Evgeny Kuznetsov blew by literally every player on the ice for the Hurricanes through the neutral zone and the Canes’ end and slid the puck under the pad of a helpless Mrazek to make it a 4-3 game.
Like the Hurricanes did every time the Capitals scored on Saturday night, they responded in short order.
Dzingel carried the puck into the offensive zone, it dropped back to Erik Haula, and Haula’s shot rebounded out onto the stick of Martin Necas, who faked a backhand shot and slid the puck by a wrong-guessing Holtby to give the Hurricanes a 5-3 lead.
Washington tried to mount a comeback, but with the sixth attacker on the ice with four minutes to go, Ovechkin turned the puck over as he tried to instead lay the body on Foegele, Svechnikov picked his pocket, and he put it into the empty net.
Svech’s 17th of the year effectively put an end to things. Foegele got the primary assist on the goal, giving him his first four-point game in the NHL.
Radko Gudas went on to find twine through a screen in front off of an offensive zone face off in the final moments, but it didn’t play an impact in the final decision.
The Hurricanes beat the Capitals by a final score of 6-4 on Saturday night and improved to 2-0-0 against the team from D.C. this season.
They will hit the ice at PNC Arena again on New Year’s Eve when they battle the Montreal Canadiens.