RALEIGH — The Canes faced elimination in front of nearly 19,000 in PNC Arena tonight. Outstanding leadership from the Canes’ top players ensured that the series wouldn’t end in Raleigh. A 5-2 victory sends the series back to Washington for Game 7 on Wednesday.
The Canes had a bit of a slow start early in the first. A rare lapse in judgement from Sebastian Aho early on in the first period allowed for Nick Dowd to receive a pass in front of the net unhindered, and he made easy work of Mrazek as he shelved a puck to the glove side to give the Caps a 1-0 lead. The obvious narrative at this point was that the first goal scorer in the past five games of the series went on to win the game. But this game, things changed.
The biggest story of this playoff series continued to be Warren Foegele. After what was an incredibly futile power play attempt from the Hurricanes, a tired Capitals PK unit took their foot off the gas for just a second, allowing for Dougie Hamilton to streak into the slot and fire a shot off of a body. The rebound was collected by Foegele and he turned and fired a shot from the high slot that beat Holtby to the low stick side for his fourth goal of this series. 1-1 Canes.
But Ovechkin would soon respond. The veteran winger continued to be the best Capital in this series as he walked into the zone and out-waited a diving Jaccob Slavin to quickly fire one past Mrazek’s short side. The Caps carried a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
Things weren’t coming as easily for the Hurricanes in this game is they had in the previous two in PNC Arena. As the second period started, the necessity for a goal was palpable. The Hurricanes’ best players delivered. Sebastian Aho chased down a dumped puck in the offensive zone and stripped Jonas Siegenthaler behind Holtby’s net. He looked up and snapped a pass to Teuvo Teravainen, who made no mistake. The Canes had equalized.
A few minutes later, Justin Williams would go to the box for an unfortunate high sticking play. The Canes came up big on the kill. Just moments after he exited the box, Williams received a massive aerial pass at the offensive blue line and skated in on Holtby. He tucked the puck far side and the crowd absolutely erupted. But the goal was called back quickly as he batted the puck out of the air well above his head while receiving the pass for an obvious high-sticking infraction.
The score remained knotted up just over the half-way point in the second. The play went back and fourth for the remainder of the middle frame with no goals scored. The teams would go into the final intermission tied at 2-2.
The third period started out with a bang. Justin Faulk received the puck on at the point and threw it at towards the net. It pin-balled around a bit above the crease, but Jordan Staal was able to corral the puck and muscle it by Holtby. An absolutely huge play from the grizzeled veteran for the go-ahead goal in the third period of an elimination game. 3-2 Canes.
As the clock ticked down in the third, the whole building could sense that Mrazek was going to need to come up big multiple times in order to keep his club in this game. He did just that. With just under 10 to play in the final period, Mrazek put together a sequence of a few huge saves as momentum mounted towards the Capitals.
But the Caps kept pushing. Evgeny Kuznetsov split Pesce and Faulk and nearly snuck the puck past Mrazek’s short post, but he was able to get a hold of it just above the goal line. Ovechkin came bombing into the crease and upended Mrazek with his stick blade, pushing the puck into the net in the process. The goal was promptly waived off by the officials to complete a sequence that will surely be a hot topic of discussion tomorrow. The Canes maintained a 3-2 lead.
Just moments later, the Canes would really get the building going. Brett Pesce threw the puck at the net on a keep in and Mr. Game 7 — err, Mr. Elimination Game — deflected the puck through Holtby’s wickets. 4-2 Canes.
A few minutes later, Dougie Hamilton potted his third goal of the series on an empty net goal and 19,000 Caniacs lost their collective minds. The Canes took the game by a score of 5-2 and forced a big Game 7 in Washington.
They Said It
[On big games from the big names:] That’s the recipe. Obviously it’s not that easy but we’ve said all along, your best players have to be your best players - all year, but in the playoffs especially. Those guys obviously contributed and had big games.
It’s super important [to expect to win]. You can’t go into a game and not think you're going to win, because you won’t. We kno how tough it is. Obviously, being at home...it’s a huge deal, the crowd here. You can just feel it on the bench, you can feel the energy that they give our players. Now we have to go figure out how to do it up there. We know what we have to do, and getting to our game is important - they’re going to say the same things. When they get to their game first, it’s a different game. Tonight we were good, we were solid. We had our gaffes, we messed up and they made us pay. For the most part I thought our guys just played hard.
Right from the start we were doing what we were trying to do. It was a pleasure, really, to coach that one. Everyone was engaged, they were giving you what they could. Yeah, we got some breaks but we worked for them.
It’s valuable to have guys who have been there before. We don’t have a ton of those, but we do have “Mr. Game 7.” What it does is, it’s nice for young guys to look across the room and see a guy who’s approaching the game the same way. You gotta go play. The game doesn’t change. We’ve had tons of emotions in this whole series, but you’ve gotta go make plays, play the game. His game’s not going to change. I think that’s comforting for some guys.
[On Martinook:] We were waiting out there [after warmup]. We had a chat this morning, and you know Marty, guys that know him in here, when he said “I’ll see you in warmup” I knew he was going to play. There was just no way you’re keeping him out. He battled, and he was a factor again today. He was good. Part of me was, if he can even give us a shift, this guy’s playing and everybody knows he’s hurt and playing through what he’s going through. It’s definitely an emotional lift for the guys. We talk about it all the time what he is in the locker room for us. He’s the glue in there. When that wasn’t there, you can feel it.
[On Staal:] He’s been solid all series. All year. Every game. You know what you’re getting with Jordan, and there’s that offensive flair to him too. He can score and he can make plays, but that’s kind of his area around the net. It’s nice to see him get rewarded. The guy does everything right for us, and I don’t know if he gets enough credit for how good of a player he is.
I’d love to say [the pressure] is on them, but we want to win, right? There’s pressure on both sides. It’s fun. This is why you play. This is why we train - well, not me anymore, but this is why the guys do what they do all year, and in the summer, to have chances, to have these opportunities. These are the games you remember. You don’t remember all the games in the regular season. This is a chance to make a moment. That’s why it’s so special.
“We’ve answered the bell. I’ve said from the start of the series, if they’re going to knock us out, they’re not going to do it easy. We’re not going to let it be easy on them. Let’s go play another game.”
“You learn a lot about people when it’s win or go home, when it’s us or them. It was us, now it’s them too, so anything can happen next game, and we’re happy to be playing it.”
“[The Fans] lift you up, they rise you up. When you’re not quite feeling well, maybe they can be that little extra adrenaline shot to get you over the edge and get you where you need to go, so I can’t say enough about the electricity in the building for these three games and we hope to win more.”
“I’ve told many people, I would run through hot coals for that guy. He’s an unbelievable coach, somebody that I want to play as hard as I can for, and I think that everybody in here knows how much he cares about us too. You can’t say enough about him and for him to say that about me... I’m ok with flying under the radar, I’ve done that my entire life, except for being a little loud in [the locker room], I’ll fly under the radar, that’s fine.”
And on his first Game 7 experience:
“I’m super excited. You always dream about playing road hockey when you’re a little kid and scoring that goal in Game 7 and having that big block, or big save. There’s a lot of emotions that go with it, and there’s a lot of fun that goes with it, too.”
“I thought that we stuck with it, there weren’t a lot of chances going either way, but they’re a team that grinds, and I thought we did the same. We were fortunate to get a quick shot from [Faulk], and I was just trying to track the puck, and honestly get a piece of it, and I was fortunate enough to get it to go in.”
“We gave them a couple chances and they put them in. That’s what that team does, and obviously a very talented team puts the puck in the back of the net, but in the end, we weren’t playing terrible but we had to find a way to tighten it up. I thought our group started to keep them more to the outside, and our PK did a great job, and Mrazek obviously stepped up and made some big saves too, so it was everyone tonight, and that’s what we need to win this series.”
“Anything can happen in Game 7, so it’s what you dream of playing as a kid and it’s an exciting time and I know everyone in this group is excited, so we’re going to find a way.”
“That crowd has been so much fun to play in front of. It’s been a long time coming, you can feel it, I can feel it, and it’s just a lot of fun. I’m excited to be where we’re at and excited to hopefully find a way to win Game 7.”
“We know our season’s on the line, I think that sparks things for sure. We don’t want our season to end, so we’re doing everything we can out there to try and squeeze it out.”
“I can’t imagine Wednesday night being much different than this. This was a do-or-die for us. But yeah, I’ve heard that Game 7’s are exciting and they’re racking, but I can’t imagine it being much different than this.”
On the crowd:
“It’s so special to see. It’s my fourth year, and obviously my first year in the playoffs, and it’s just awesome. We haven’t had playoffs in here in so long and it’s so cool to see the crowd and give back to them. They really deserve this moment, and they’ve stuck through with us for a while now, so it’s so cool to see.
We wanted to get a good start, and I think we had a good start. They had two scoring chances that they scored [on]. They’re a good team, they score when they get the chance, but you try to minimize those scoring chances.
[On his goal:] That started when I lost a faceoff in the neutral zone. Good battle in our D zone, we got the puck out and then we got it back. Great shot by Turbo.
I feel like we were ready from the very beginning of Game 1, and now we’re at Game 7. It’s one game that we want to win. We weren’t frustrated at any point. That was a bad game by us, Game 5, but we knew that when we came back here to Raleigh and the home crowd we knew we would pay a good game. I like it. It’s a lot of fun.
Big win for us, obviously. Down 3-2 and coming back to home ice, we got it done. It wasn’t the start I wanted, but I think in the second period we played way better, and we didn’t give up much in the second.
We’ll try to push hard in Washington. We have to create some offense. It’s the playoffs. Doesn’t matter if it’s 1-0 or 6-0.
I’m sure Ovi knows it’s the right call. He didn’t play the puck. I had the puck, it hit me in the legs, and he pushed my pad.
[The crowd] means a lot for us. They’ve been great all series for us. They were an extra player for us today. I felt great in that third period. I didn’t see many shots for the first seven or eight minutes, but they were pushing and trying to create some chances. The guys in front of me did an outstanding job so that I could see the puck well.