WASHINGTON — The Carolina Hurricanes knew that their first-round series would be returning to Raleigh on Monday. They hoped that they would be doing so with a 3-2 series lead and a chance to close out the series on home ice.
They won’t get that chance.
The Washington Capitals took advantage of lackadaisical Hurricanes play essentially from the opening faceoff and parlayed that into a 6-0 win that, from a Hurricanes perspective, was way easier than it had any business being. Nicklas Backstrom scored the first two goals, the second game in this series that he’s scored twice, and the series continued its strange storyline of the team scoring the opening goal in each game — in all five cases, the home team — never giving up the lead.
The good for the Hurricanes? Trevor van Riemsdyk was outstanding, and Petr Mrazek, despite being hung out to dry most of the night, was certainly far from the problem. The bad? Just about everything else.
Start with a Hurricanes power play that had next to nothing working all night. At one point, the Canes’ top unit went for nearly a minute without as much as a shot. Once the second unit came on the ice, there were two shots in five seconds.
Continue with the walking wounded gaining two more members. Greg McKegg was the recipient of a Tom Wilson elbow in the first period, sending him to the locker room. Calvin de Haan took a high stick from Evgeny Kuznetsov and did likewise. Both players did return to the game, but with the Hurricanes already down the likes of Andrei Svechnikov, Micheal Ferland and Jordan Martinook, they could not have afforded any additional dings.
And keep that going with a penalty kill that recalled the Game 1 special-teams horror show. The Capitals were 3-for-4 with the man advantage, and at no time did the Hurricanes seem on the same page with each other while killing penalties. Backstrom opened the scoring on the power play, and Tom Wilson finished off a beautiful passing play to make it 4-0 a minute into the third period, after Sebastian Aho had taken a tripping penalty in the final minute of the second.
Midway through the third period, the Capitals made it 5-0 after Dougie Hamilton slashed Nic Dowd on a breakaway and the Caps fourth-line center converted the subsequent penalty shot. It was Dowd’s first career penalty shot goal, and the second successful one of the 2019 playoffs.
Summing up the night, a minute later Lucas Wallmark sat for a holding penalty, grabbing Dmitry Orlov’s jersey with Brock McGinn on his way to splitting the defense and earning a breakaway. Alex Ovechkin took all of two seconds to make it a 6-0 game on the power play, and the Hurricanes still had to endure another ten minutes of game time.
The closest the Hurricanes came was on one second-period shift when they possessed the puck for over a minute in the offensive zone, but Braden Holtby stoned Warren Foegele and then Sebastian Aho in one sequence. But that was about it as far as grade-A scoring chances went for the Hurricanes, outchanced 16-6 in high-danger areas according to Natural Stat Trick. By the end of the night, the Capital One Arena crowd had started a “T.J. Oshie” chant, in honor of the winger injured in Game 4.
It was a start-to-finish miserable evening, one the Hurricanes would like to forget, and now as a result they will face elimination on home ice Monday night.
They Said It
The first couple [PKs], actually, I didn’t think they were that bad. We kind of got a couple bad bounces. But yeah, special teams were terrible. Our whole game was terrible. That was just kind of the beginning of it. It was a 1-0 game, we get three power plays in a row, we don’t even execute anything. That, to me, was where the tipping point went. They just took it from there.
I didn’t see that coming. We were bad from start to finish, really. It’s tough to pick out a guy that I thought had a good game. This time of year, you need everybody on board, and for whatever reason we were all just a step behind. The score is indicative of the game. We didn’t look like we were up for it, for whatever reason. I get it, we have some new guys in the lineup and there’s other things, but we didn’t match the level of intensity that needs to be there at this time of year.
We keep it pretty real. You say I’m positive - I’m positive because we haven’t had to be negative. Obviously tonight was a different story. Give them credit, they executed what they wanted to do, full marks to them. On every aspect of the game we were outplayed. It’s tough, this time of year, to lose obviously a big game, but it would have been worse if we had been close and lost. It’s literally hard to find a guy that I said “good game” to tonight. I would expect we’d be better the next one.
[on Staal not being able to match up with Backstrom:] I don’t know that it mattered, really. We played sometimes where [McKegg] was out against them and those were some of our best shifts. When you’re not playing up to par, the game plan, everything goes out the window, it doesn’t matter what you’re trying to do. We will regroup. Good news is, we still have another day, another game to play, so pick the pieces up and try to get better, and throw everything we can at them next game.
It’s clear, their best players were their best players, and ours were not. Yeah, we’re short-staffed — you hear about their team being short-staffed, we’re pretty short-staffed — I’m looking at it, the injury bug...you can see it tonight. We were missing some of these guys that make a difference in that area, but it’s no excuse. We weren’t beating anybody tonight.
A little too much panic, not enough execution. We had three [power plays] in a row there that didn’t generate anything, so that definitely killed us a bit.
To a man, I think everyone in the room needed a little more fight and a little bit more edge to our game, and we didn’t have that tonight. And it showed. [The choppy game flow] doesn’t help, but regardless special teams is important, and whether they’re all in a row at the start or at the end, in general we have to be sharp, and they were better on special teams tonight for sure.
I think our start was OK, we didn’t get to our game that great though. Obviously our power play wasn’t good enough tonight, and that’s kind of what hurt us in the second. We had a lot of chances to even up the game and get the momentum going our way, but we didn’t do that tonight. It just wasn’t good enough, all three periods.
Obviously, the home team’s gotten the [first] goal each game, and that gets the crowd into it, and builds some momentum. We just have got to make sure we get that first one, get our crowd into it right away, it’s do or die now.
I think guys worked hard tonight, we just didn’t play our game. Our game is a forechecking game, and they did a good job of breaking the puck out against us. We can’t get them hemmed in their zone and let our forwards go to work when we’re not playing too great. We didn’t get pucks deep enough, and we weren’t playing our game. There’s a couple of turnovers that obviously led to their transition and goals for them. We just have to make sure we’re doing a better job of getting the puck 200 feet.
- Well, if there’s a silver lining, I guess it’s that this one didn’t end on an overtime goal. But that was as bad as the Hurricanes have been outplayed all year, and it came in a pivotal game. Growing pains, I guess, but it’s still hard to watch knowing where this team has come from this season.
- It’s going to be lost in the grand stink that was this game, but Trevor van Riemsdyk was everywhere tonight. If the rest of the team had played at his level, there’s no way we’re writing this type of a recap now. Brind’Amour said he couldn’t think of one player who he could say “good game” to, but if anyone it’s TVR, who was great from start to finish in 15:10 of ice time.
- The Washington Post’s Barry Svrluga tweeted after the game that two sources confirmed that Oshie suffered a broken collarbone on the hit from Foegele in Game 4’s third period. That’s a two-month injury, at least. He’s done for the playoffs.
- I realize that no coach is going to blame anything on injuries, but the list of players that are healthy is far shorter than the list of the walking wounded. Brett Pesce blocked a shot off the inside of his ankle a few seconds before Wilson’s power-play goal. He finished the game, but wasn’t feeling too hot. Foegele took a lick tonight. There were McKegg and de Haan, obviously. No one ices a healthy lineup in the postseason, but this is a bit much even by playoff standards.
- And here’s the other thing. The players who are “healthy” aren’t giving the Canes anything at all. The top two lines to begin the playoffs - Niederreiter-Aho-Williams; Ferland-Staal-Teravainen - have combined for three goals and 11 points through five games. No team is going to win a playoff series with their top two lines posting a scoring line like that.
- This is the kind of game where, if it’s January, you flush it and move on. The Canes don’t have that luxury in Game 5 of a playoff series. Back at it on Monday at 7 at PNC.