So, that happened.
After being thoroughly dominated for the first half of the game, the Carolina Hurricanes clawed their way back and eventually punched their ticket to the second round thanks to Brock McGinn’s double OT winner.
Once Niskanen corrals the puck, he gains the net and looks to hit Tom Wilson for a breakout pass. The only problem is that Wilson hasn’t gotten to the wall to be in position for a direct breakout pass yet. Under heavy pressure from Williams, Niskanen has little choice but to delay his pass. To make matters worse, Niskanen fumbles the puck even further into the corner making it an even tougher passing lane.
Still, Wilson is under no pressure and Niskanen actually gets off a pretty solid pass. Wilson just misses it. Maybe it was fatigue or just a mental lapse, but either way Carolina maintains possession in the form of Jaccob Slavin. Without a clear shooting lane Slavin, wisely slides the puck to an open corner instead of trying to force a shot through traffic.
It’s vital to note that once the pass gets by Wilson, it’s the center Nicklas Backstrom who goes to cover Slavin. That leaves Wilson, a winger, down low to cover a Hurricanes’ forward below the tops of the circles.
Williams finds the loose puck and flings it towards the crease, hoping for a funny bounce off of a shin guard, skate, or stick. Spoiler alert: it was a stick, specifically the stick of Brock McGinn.
With Holtby tight on his post, McGinn has room to go right towards the top of the blue paint. He’s marked by Wilson who, as noted earlier, is a winger most used to covering pointmen rather than playing below the dots in the defensive zone. Wilson thinks he’s in good position. He’s standing right next to McGinn after all. But standing next to an assignment isn’t the same as covering him. Wilson leaves McGinn’s stick free and the Carolina winger is able to show off his hand-eye coordination.
If that’s the natural center, Backstrom, there’s a chance McGinn’s stick is tied up and the puck flutters harmlessly to the other corner. Instead, the Canes are off to round two and Wilson and the Caps are finished playing hockey for the spring.
The celebration can’t last as long as some Caniacs would like though, as the Canes are set to take the ice again on Friday night against the New York Islanders.