Monday night’s 5-0 drubbing of the Washington Capitals served as catharsis for Caniacs who had long been waiting for an opportunity to roar as loudly as they did throughout Game Three. The PNC Arena crowd was raucous, creating a special atmosphere and a special night, all fueled by special teams.
Special teams have been instrumental for each team throughout the series, with Washington taking Game One in large part thanks to a pair of power-play goals. But on Monday it was the Hurricanes’ power play, specifically two Dougie Hamilton goals, that propelled Carolina to victory.
To date in the series, the Capitals’ PK has relied on aggressively pressuring the point. It’s worked with great success against Carolina’s top unit, but has given up good looks against the second unit. That’s in large part due to the second PP unit’s movement, as seen here.
Hamilton’s goal was aided by great puck movement and stagnant Capital defenders. But Jaccob Slavin’s movement down the wall and Lucas Wallmark’s backdoor drive have to be respected by the Washington penalty killers, specifically Lars Eller and Carl Hagelin. So once those two aggressive killers are drawn below the tops of the circles, lots of open ice in the highs slot becomes available for Hamilton to rifle one past Braden Holtby. In addition, Warren Foegele’s screen left Holtby with almost no sightline to the puck.
That’s a sensational screen and, if you didn’t notice it already, revisit the first GIF of the overhead angle of the goal and just watch Holtby’s head as he tries to peer around the traffic in front. He never stood a chance.
The second Hamilton goal began with tenacity and hunger from both Jordan Staal and Foegle to win a puck battle, setting up the Hamilton shot.
Holtby was screened on this goal as well, but not by a Hurricane. Despite having a slightly better sightline to this shot, Hamilton’s point blast again beat Holtby low on the blocker side.
The penalty kill also helped the Canes’ cause. After allowing goals on the first two Capitals’ power plays of the series, the Carolina killers have made adjustments and stymied one of the league’s most lethal power plays.
Great neutral zone play by Carolina’s killers on this Caps’ power play in the first period prevented from Washington from sustaining possession in zone for a full 1:10. When the Caps did set up in-zone, Foegele continued his career night, making an excellent defensive read to help down on Tom Wilson and alter his bid from the slot.
At times, the Cane killers have given the Caps’ skilled power play too much time and space, but that wasn’t the case on Monday night as evidenced by excellent sticks and desperation from Jordan Martinook and Staal.
It shouldn’t be overlooked how well the defensemen were on the kill either. In the clip above, both Brett Pesce and Slavin play the Capitals’ zone entry about as well as a coach could hope for, forcing Washington to the wall, then the corner and then earning a turnover.
Both sides of the Canes’ special teams were excellent on Monday, and if that strong play continues, this series is far from over.