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Capitals top Hurricanes in heart-stopping Game 2 thriller

The Canes gave as well as they got on Saturday, but they return to Raleigh down 2-0 after a wild overtime loss.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Carolina Hurricanes at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

WASHINGTON — The Carolina Hurricanes clearly got the message on how playoff hockey is played after Thursday’s Game 1 loss. Unfortunately, another slow start condemned the Canes to their fate again, and they return home still looking for their first playoff win in ten years.

Brooks Orpik scored the game-winning goal 1:48 into overtime as the Washington Capitals pulled out a 4-3 win over the Hurricanes, taking a 2-0 lead in the first-round series on Saturday afternoon at Capital One Arena.

Sebastian Aho’s second-period goal, his first since March 9 and his first against a goaltender since March 5, encapsulated a gritty afternoon for the Hurricanes, who needed to grow into the game again but got their bearings before the end of the first period, in a change from Thursday’s Game 1. Yet again, Nicklas Backstrom opened the scoring for the Capitals, taking a centering pass from Alex Ovechkin past an out-of-position Justin Faulk 3:37 into the game. T.J. Oshie then doubled the Caps lead six minutes later, and the Canes bench had a discomforting sense of deja vu.

But in a change of the script, Lucas Wallmark beat Braden Holtby on a redirection after Holtby spun around trying to draw a penalty. It didn’t work, and he was badly out of position to defend against Wallmark’s tip of Jaccob Slavin’s point shot.

It was a physical game, much more so than Game 1, and it started early when Ovechkin caught Brett Pesce along the boards, sending the Canes defenseman to the locker room for a few minutes. Micheal Ferland floored Carl Hagelin with the Canes on a first period power play. Ovechkin later launched himself into Brock McGinn in the corner, earning a two-minute elbowing call.

That call was what sent Rod Brind’Amour into orbit early in the second period, when Ferland was ejected for a hit to the head against Nic Dowd. Brind’Amour, using extraordinarily colorful language even by his standards, absolutely unloaded on referee Steve Kozari after Ferland was sent to an early shower.

Brind’Amour’s words fell on deaf ears, despite his pleas that Ovechkin’s hit on McGinn as just as bad, if not worse, and did not receive the same level of punishment. Dowd went to the locker room briefly, but miraculously returned to the bench no more than 30 seconds into the man advantage.

Mrazek even got in on the action, taking a John Carlson slap shot flush off the right side of his mask and sending him to the ice with his helmet popping off. Trainer Doug Bennett came out to tend to the Canes goaltender, but he stayed on the ice.

The Canes killed the penalty, but then just after Oshie finished a hooking penalty Hamilton was sent to the box for a two-minute elbowing penalty on Evgeni Kuznetsov that seemed much more dangerous than what Ferland was kicked out of the game for.

Then, Aho finally broke his hex, on a goal that won’t exactly go on the career highlight reel but counted just the same. On a carom behind the net, the puck bounced out of the back of the net and Aho banked it in off Holtby’s leg to tie the game.

The second period that never seemed to end gave way to a third period that as played at an up-and-down pace and saw the teams trade quality scoring chances from the opening shift, none better than McGinn missing the net on a 3-on-2 with Holtby prone on the ice.

The Caps were the first to cash in on their chances to get the go-ahead goal. Ovechkin led an odd-man rush, Backstrom set a pick to take Jaccob Slavin out of the play, and that allowed Ovechkin to find Tom Wilson unmarked at the top of the far circle. Wilson made no mistake, wristing a shot home that beat Petr Mrazek under the glove to give the Caps the lead back.

The Canes, though, weren’t done. They earned a power play when Dowd went to the box for high-sticking Jordan Staal with 5:35 to go, and they cashed in, Staal tipping home a Hamilton shot at the 15:00 mark. All of a sudden, the Capital One Arena crowd was stunned, and the Hurricanes had new life.

Mrazek then made a miraculous save to preserve the stalemate, robbing Wilson from point-blank range with 90 seconds to go. And then he came up enormous at the horn, somehow robbing Carlson who had the game-winner on his stick ten feet from the net but was denied by Mrazek’s left pad.

And on the second shift of overtime, Brett Pesce lost his stick and Teuvo Teravainen gave the defenseman his own. That boded poorly when Kuznetsov passed it from behind the net under Pesce’s (Teravainen’s) stick and out to Orpik, who ended it 1:48 into overtime and sent the Canes home without the reward they worked so hard to earn.

They Said It

Rod Brind’Amour:

[Mrazek] made quite a few big saves for us, just to get us to have a chance to win. I thought he was solid. Tough one for him. I thought he played well.

At the end of the day, our top guys aren’t on the scoresheet. Theirs are. I feel pretty good that, if we get those guys going - which they have all year - it will give us a better chance to win, that’s for sure. We’re hanging around, and I don’t think we’re playing our best hockey. I guess that’s somewhat positive.

I thought it [Ferland] was a good hit. Originally it did look bad. When you first watch it live you’re like “ooh,” but then you watch it on the screen, he doesn’t hit his head. It’s body contact. That’s the first point of contact for sure, it was not the head. So that’s frustrating, lose a player, have to kill a five minute penalty. That gets frustrating for sure.

[The PP] was good. The first one we zipped it around, had a lot of good looks. The only part I didn’t like was the 5-on-3. We got stagnant again, it was only a minute but that could have been the difference in the game if we had been able to get one there.

[On Aho finally scoring:] You’d hope it’s big. Obviously we need to find another gear. You can tell he’s a little fatigued. You haven’t seen him really crank it up like he can this time of year. Again, we had to push pretty hard to get to this point, and I think you’re seeing that a little bit. Obviously tomorrow will be a nice day off, but I think he’ll bounce back. He’s a competitor.

Justin Williams:

It’s playoff hockey. Every game’s different. I thought we did a really good job on their power play, negating a lot of penalties against us. We scored a big power play goal. It’s really hard when you spot teams leads like that, like we have in the last two games. We battled back. It’s not enough.

It usually breaks down one way or another on every goal. There’s something that happened that resulted in this. Yeah, it’s tough. We’ll pick ourselves up and get back at it in Game 3.

We have to be better. Our line and just in general. I haven’t been good this series, I think if you talk to our other top scorers, we need to be a lot better, and we will be in Game 3.

Micheal Ferland:

I thought I hit him with my butt. I thought it was a clean hit. I don’t agree with the call. I don’t think it was a dirty hit. I don’t think I deserve to be suspended. I take pride in my game and being a clean hitter, and I never want to hurt anybody. I don’t think it was a dirty hit.

I’m thinking I’m going to finish my hit on this guy. I see him reaching for the puck. Like I said, I could have finished with my shoulder but he was reaching and I thought I let up, and I hit him with my back. I didn’t make any contact with his head with my shoulder. I didn’t leave my feet. I don’t agree with the call.

Petr Mrazek:

I don’t think we started how we wanted to start. The first game I thought we started really well, didn’t give them much the first ten minutes. Today it was the opposite. They were coming hard, we couldn’t get the pucks out, and they scored two quick ones.

[The five-minute PK] gave us momentum for sure. When you kill five minutes against a team like that, their power play is one of the best in the league. We did fantastic on the PK today and I wish we would have won the game.

It caught me a little on the chin. When I fell I didn’t have a mask on and I hit the ice pretty hard with my face. That was worse than the shot.

I didn’t see [Orpik] coming. I think he came from the bench. I got a piece of it too. I thought it was enough, but it wasn’t. I could have had that goal.

Game Notes

  • Well, that was certainly something. Thirteen years after Orpik broke Erik Cole’s neck, he broke the Hurricanes’ hearts. The Canes probably deserved better, but their first 10-15 minutes were eye-poppingly bad. The Ferland hit on Hagelin was a big momentum-shifter, and I think they really missed Ferland late in the third, when the Caps started carrying play following Staal’s goal.
  • To that point, the Canes were lucky to get it to overtime. Mrazek said that his save on Carlson at the horn was pure reaction, and you could see that: the puck had hit his pad and was already bounced off before he kicked his leg out. It was very nearly a repeat of Tom Dundon’s first game as Canes owner, when Jay Beagle scored with two seconds left to give the Caps a regulation win.
  • It would be no surprise for Dougie Hamilton to get a call to the principal’s office tomorrow after his elbow to Kuznetsov’s head. Will it warrant a game? In the playoffs, probably not, but I fully expect a fine.
  • Ferland, meanwhile, will almost certainly have his match penalty rescinded. I would be absolutely stunned if he doesn’t play Monday.
  • Nino Niederreiter has been awfully quiet in these two games. Williams, as you saw above, talked about how it’s important that he get himself back on the right side of the coin, but Niederreiter (and Teravainen too, for that matter) can’t be passengers if the Canes are going to come back in the series.
  • The Canes are off tomorrow. They’ll be back on the ice for the morning skate Monday at PNC prior to Game 3. Time to start the drive home. Talk to y’all tomorrow.