RALEIGH — Rod Brind’Amour said, statistically, game three wasn’t a must-win for his Carolina Hurricanes, but he admitted that, practically, it was absolutely a must-win.
Well, even if it wasn’t, the Hurricanes came through with a hugely important game-four win over the Capitals in their round-one series, evening the score of the series at two games apiece.
The Canes couldn’t have started the night any better. On the first shift of the game, the Hurricanes fended off a rush from the Capitals and quickly reloaded as Jaccob Slavin carried the puck out from the back of his own goal, carried it through the neutral zone, played a game of give-and-go with Justin Williams, and then he found Warren Foegele on the back door. Foegele continued to take advantage of his opportunities and gave the Canes a 1-0 lead just 17 seconds into the game - setting a franchise postseason record for quickest goal to start a game/period.
Side note: he did it in front of a PNC Arena record-setting crowd of 19,202 that sounded every bit the part.
From there, though, the Capitals bounced back and, as the opening period progressed, gained control of the game. They weren’t able to out a dent in Petr Mrazek, but the momentum certainly went their way and it carried into the second period.
For whatever reason, Carolina just couldn’t get any traction through the middle portions of game four. The second period on Thursday might have been their worst period of the postseason, and they eventually paid for it in the form of a power play goal from newly crowned public enemy number one (sorry, Brooks Orpik), Alex Ovechkin. It was, pratically, a 5-on-3 goal as Trevor van Riemsdyk broke his stick and Brock McGinn had to scramble and give him his.
From there, it felt like the game could easily start to get away from the Canes in ugly fashion, but they collapsed well enough in the defensive zone and Petr Mrazek came up huge in order to keep the hockey game tied at one.
Then, late in the second period, the Canes got the chance they desperately needed, and they capitalized.
Sebastian Aho carried the puck into the zone, drew the attention of several Washington players, dropped the puck to Nino Niederreiter at the blue line, and Niederreiter found Teuvo Teravainen wide open in the busted coverage. Turbo roofed it past Braden Holtby after a quick hesitation move with just moments to spare in the second period to give the Hurricanes a gigantic goal and make it a 2-1 game.
Carolina came out in the third period with a noticeable uptick in energy, and the crowd responded. The building was booming, the Canes were getting chances, and the Caps were getting pushed back on their heels. There were a handful of ming-boggling uncontested turnovers from the Washington d-core in their own end early in the final period, and the Canes nearly found the back of the net as a result, but Holtby came up with a few nifty saves and the puck stayed out.
The Capitals didn’t go away quietly. As the period went on, Washington regained the life they had in the second period, and with just over five minutes left, they were given a power play opportunity when Foegele boarded Caps forward T.J. Oshie. Oshie went down in a lot of pain, favoring his arm/shoulder, before laboring to the Caps locker room. It was later revealed that Oshie is going to miss some significant period of time.
A flurry of late chances from the Caps were for none as Mrazek shut the door in impressive fashion and the Hurricanes held on for the huge game-four win.
This series is dead even at two.
The Canes got outshot on Thursday by a final tally of 31-24, but Mrazek was spectacular, stopping 30 shots and allowing just one goal - a one-timer from Ovechkin on the power play while McGinn didn’t have a stick.
Carolina’s first line got on the scoresheet with their big goal late in the second period. Nino Niederreiter’s assist was his first point of the playoffs and marked the end of his three-game point drought, which was the longest of his Canes tenure.
Jaccob Slavin had a marvelous game, from the opening shift to the very end. He blocked a game-high five shots and had that big assist on Foegele’s goal. He logged 23:56 of ice time and maybe played his best game of the series, which is saying a lot given how dominant he has been.
Up next for Carolina, game five of this first round series back in the nation’s capital. It’ll be a chippy, edgy game, and the Canes will have to be ready for it. The winner on Saturday will take a 3-2 series lead.
They Said It
That was a pretty hairy game. We got nicked up again. I can’t say enough about our group. They just battle, next guy up, whoever’s ready — we’re giving everything we can. Our D were really solid tonight. They really held the fort down, and obviously our goaltender came up big again. Just a good team effort.
From day one, it’s been rewarding to see [Foegele] come to camp not really sure of where he’d fit in, but you’ve got to keep him, and you’ve got to play him. Today’s game, it’s tough because of the way the contracts are set up. A lot of times the teams are kind of laid on your lap. That wasn’t the case this year. We had spots open, we love to have that. Who’s the guy that earns it? That’s what he did. He’s earned his ice time. He works hard, he does what you ask of him, so yes, you’re happy to see those guys succeed.
[On Martinook:] He’s been battling an injury all year, he’s just gutted it out. I don’t know if it reaggravated, I’m not really sure, I haven’t been able to get the full update. He’s got a lower body injury, I guess you could say he reaggravated it. He wanted to give it a go and couldn't.
[The Foegele hit on Oshie:] I thought he just pushed him. There wasn't a penalty being called, and obviously he crashed into the boards hard and that’s when the arm went up, when he stayed down. You don't like to see that. I think more than anything he just wasn't ready for the hit. You see a lot of hits that are way, way worse than that. I think he just went in awkward. He barely hit him, I thought. He gave him a little shove, but it certainly wasn’t what you’ve been seeing out here all series. We’ve got way more injuries than they do. I don’t worry about their team.
I’m certainly happy that we went up. It wasn’t our best game, but we were just playing an uncomfortable game. Not pretty, just hanging in there. That’s what I thought we were doing. The third period we got some good looks, had some good chances. We weren’t sitting back, we were making plays. Looking down, our guys were pretty much gassed. I had to shorten the bench. That makes it tough. I’m glad we didn’t go to overtime, because I don’t know how much we would have had left.
I thought [de Haan] was solid, he put some good minutes in. It’s tough when you’ve been out for a long time and have to come into a playoff game, that’s as tough as you can get. He gave us some good minutes. I would hope he’ll get better as we move along.
I think it’s important to get that first goal and get the momentum right away in the game. I thought we did that there. I’m just trying to work hard. Everyone here’s battling and grinding. Been short a couple bodies, and it’s everyone’s turn to step up. Everyone has the same goal, and we just have to keep working hard.
[re Oshie:] I tried to lift his stick and tried to give him a little nudge. Little unfortunate play there, wasnt trying to hurt him or anything. I hope he’s OK.
We’ve had belief all year, starting from back in October. For us, you just have to take it day by day and move on from there.
[Mrazek] has been huge. Mac, too - everyone. Petr made some big saves tonight to keep us in the game. That’s why he’s a brick wall.
It’s the playoffs, right? It’s a grind, but it’s a lot of fun. Winning is fun, and we’re going to try to build off this win and move onto the next game.
I just try to work hard every day, lucky to get a couple of bounces. Those goals wouldn’t happen without my line mates. That was a great pass by Slavin there, and Willy to get it to Slavs. Just come to the rink with a good attitude and just keep working hard.
It’s always big when you’re down and you have to win. We were down 2-0, we took it game by game, and now it’s over and we have to prepare for the next one.
A lot of guys are young guys who didn’t have playoff experience, but we don’t have to look at it that way. We have to look at it like a normal day, a normal game for us, and keep doing what we’re doing.
The fans have been awesome. We appreciate all they’re doing for us, especially these two games. They’re a big part of it. We all heard what was happening here before in the playoffs. We were expecting a big crowd, and it was.
We’re going to have to obviously take care of our home, and we’re going to have to get one there. We know that. Hopefully it will be the next one, and if it’s not, we move forward.
Every goal in the playoffs is huge. A comebacker after they scored and were feeling good, and actually probably controlled a little bit more of the play than we wanted. But that’s playoffs. They’re Cup champs for a reason. They’re going to spend a lot of time in our zone. But a huge goal by Turbo, and if it’s not him next game, someone else is going to step up.
You have to be comfortable knowing that you’re going to have to play the D-zone on a few shifts. You’re not going to get an opportunity to score - maybe one shift, maybe the next shift, maybe three shifts in a row - but if you keep doing it right, keep doing it right, keep doing it right, you’re eventually going to get that chance.
[Foegele] is the prototypical playoff guy. He works his tail off, he’s big, I feel like he’s kind of built for playoffs. He’s been a horse for us, and I know he’s going to continue to be.
[On Brind’Amour and his coaching this season] He said to just believe in ourselves and believe in our game. Even when it wasn’t working at the start (of the season), he’s just believed in us. He’s a guy you respect, obviously. It’s a lot of fun to have him as a coach.
[On how the Canes keep having success, even after the injuries] It’s huge. It shows our depth. Everyone wants more opportunities, so when you get it and take advantage of it, you have to take advantage of it. It’s like Foegele right now. He had an opportunity at the start and did pretty well. He’s getting it now and he’s producing against for us.
[On if anything from Mrazek surprises him at this point] No, he’s just so solid right now. It’s awesome. He loves the moment and the spotlight and stuff, so that’s what you need, as a goalie, for sure.
[On what the Canes need to do moving forward in this series] We need to win in their rink, I think. Obviously, the team on home ice has won all of the games. We have two games there and one here, so hopefully we can put out a good effort in their arena in the next game.
[On the record-setting crowd at PNC Arena] It was pretty loud, especially at the end there. It’s hard to think when it’s just so loud. It’s so much fun to play in front of a crowd like that, with the towels. They were just so loud and it makes it so fun.
[On how the Canes are limiting Washington’s offense] I think it’s our forwards forechecking so hard. When they’re on them, they have less time in space and we can gap up and make it hard on them. We’ve just worked really hard these last few games. We worked hard in the first two games, as well, but we just didn’t get the results. We’re excited. We just gotta keep it going on Saturday.
[On how game four compared to game three] A lot more even. Tight game. There weren’t many chances, either way. We only had a few chances, and they probably only had a couple, too, so not many chances. It was really tight, and I’m glad we came up on top.
[On Teravainen’s goal] I was surprised just by how wide-open he was. When you drop in you look to the middle and he was open and I was able to make the play.
[On how big the Teravainen goal was] It was a tight-checking game all over, so getting a goal like that is a huge goal at the end of the period. We knew we had to finish (the game) in order to get the win and that’s exactly what we did.
[On his goal] I don’t really know what happened there. Nino got the puck and I was a little open, so I just took a couple of steps and got a pretty good chance.
It’s good to have the lead. I think the first goal is big. In the first (two) games, they got the lead and we were chasing them the whole time... So, when we get the lead, it’s just all about the next shift and doing the little things right because we know it’ll pay off.
[On what the Canes need to do next] We need to win a game on the road, that’s for sure. We have a pretty good chance next game. It’s been a great two games at home. Now, the fans (in Washington) aren’t going to cheer for us, so we have to find a way (to be on their game and win).
[On how many stitches he needed after he got high-sticked late in the game] (through laughs) I don’t know. A couple, maybe.
[On the belief inside the locker room] There’s a lot of belief in this group. I feel like, on the outside, a lot of people don’t believe in us, but on the inside here, everyone believes. It’s fun to be a team where everyone cares about each other and we want to work for each other.
[On the team’s confidence] We’re a pretty confident team. When we get rolling, it feels like nothing can stop us, but we have to be careful. We can’t be too high for the next game. We have to stay focused.