RALEIGH — Well, if you thought that the preseason finale between the Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals on Sunday would just be all business and preparation for the 2019-20 regular season, you were wrong.
It was from a normal preseason game. In front of a max-capacity crowd after the Caniac Carnival, the Canes and Caps played a hard, chippy, and dirty hockey game.
Sebastian Aho started the scoring at 3:43 of the first period. He flew in down the wing and sent a puck through Braden Holtby to give the Canes an early lead. Andrei Svechnikov got the lone assist.
From there, Carolina’s hot start shifted to Washington being firmly in control. An even-strength goal from T.J. Oshie and a tap-in power play goal from Jakub Vrana flipped the script and gave the Caps a 2-1 lead entering the first intermission.
Then, the second period happened.
At 5:28 of the second, the Hurricanes got whistled for two penalties - interference on Teuvo Teravainen through the neutral zone and, certainly most notably, Brock McGinn for an illegal hit to the head of Michael Sgarbossa. That triggered a two-minutes 5-on-3 for the Caps. A little over halfway through the kill, another penalty was called - slashing on Dougie Hamilton in the slot.
A few moments later, on the long 5-on-3, Washington finally broke through with a goal from T.J. Oshie, his second of the game.
Carolina then had to kill a full 5-on-4 power play, which they were doing successfully. That’s when Sebastian Aho got sent to the box for high-sticking Tom Wilson. The Hurricanes then killed the rest of the 5-on-3 and 5-on-4 chances for Washington.
Just over half-way through the period, Garnet Hathaway laid a booming hit on Brian Gibbons in the Hurricanes’ zone. In retaliation, Roland McKeown dropped the gloves in open ice for a short-lived fight.
That would not end the flaring of tempers.
With 1:17 left in the second period, Tom Wilson got into an altercation with Joel Edmundson in front of the Hurricanes bench. That led to Wilson yelling at multiple players on the Carolina bench. When separated by the ref, Wilson pushed the ref, which is a no-no.
Wilson got two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct and a ten-minute misconduct penalty for pushing the ref. He returned to the game just over halfway through the third period.
As a cherry on top, at the end of the period, Hurricanes assistant coach Dean Chynoweth went to the far end of the Canes bench and got in a shouting match with what seemed like the entirety of the Capitals coaching staff. The referees had to stand between them and separate them before they all went back into their respective locker rooms.
The third period eventually started, and it started with a bang. Nino Niederreiter came up the right wing and fired a bar-down shot by Holtby to make it a 3-2 game.
Washington responded quickly, though. Jakub Vrana fired a puck in the slot by Petr Mrazek to increase the road team’s lead back to two goals.
More rough stuff transpired at 8:34 of the third period, when Richard Panik boarded Nino Niederreiter along the Canes bench and got assessed a two-minute penalty for his actions.
On the impending power play, the Canes got a goal back. A slick net-front passing play from Andrei Svechnikov and Erik Haula led to Sebastian Aho burying a chance from the dead slot. It was Aho’s second of the game and it got the score to 4-3.
Things settled down a little bit down the stretch, and Carolina started to mount a charge, offensively.
With all of 2:15 left in the game, another penalty occurred. Again, it was Tom Wilson, who rag-dolled Warren Foegele and got a two-minute roughing penalty. He finished with 14 minutes in penalties on the afternoon.
Carolina failed to capitalize, though, and that’s how the game ended. The final score was 4-3, but the storylines from the game go far beyond the final score. It will revolve around the emotions on the ice, on the bench, and in the arena. A max-capacity crowd of 18,680 on the day of the Caniac Carnival packed into PNC Arena see a doozy of a preseason finale.
Following the game, the Hurricanes assigned defenseman Chase Priskie to Charlotte. Priskie had been recovering from an injury and was unable to be assigned previously in time to begin the Checkers’ camp. The Hurricanes finish the preseason with a record of 2-3-1 and have at least more five more cuts to make before opening night, Thursday, October 3 at PNC Arena against the Montreal Canadiens.
It was a lot better. The result wasn’t great, but the overall start-to-finish, there weren’t many lulls in there. A couple of mistakes cost us the game, but I liked the effort and the compete was there. We got a couple of guys nicked up, which is the worst part of preseason, so unfortunately we’ll deal with, but overall, that game was the best game we’ve played.
[On the injuries] I think (Jake Gardiner’s injury) is the most troublesome. I don’t know where he’s quite at. (Ryan Dzingel) skated today, so that’s a positive. (Martin Necas) also skated today, so that’s positive, and obviously, (Trevor van Riemsdyk) is longer term.
[On the how the PK looked] They didn’t have Ovi in there, but against a real talented team, it’s nice to get the PK some work so we have some video and teaching points. The other night when there were a whole bunch of penalties, we didn’t have any of our (regular) guys in the lineup, so it was good (tonight).
[On Aho’s good night and if that can carry over into the season] We’re banking on it, right... that’s kinda literal. That’s how it goes. He’s our best offensive player and we need him to be on the scoresheet every night.
[On if it felt like a regular season game] (It was the) last game for both teams in the preseason, so I think everyone is ready to play in an actual game now. Everyone was working hard, like in a regular season game, so I thought it was a good game.
I don’t know. We’ve play a lot against them the last couple of years, but yeah, it takes a little history to begin a rivalry. So, we’ll see.
He earned it. He’s a great leader. I’m so happy for him and I’m happy to have him as my captain.
[On the intensity of the game] Obviously, when you get that many fans in the building, I think everyone feeds off of that. There was definitely a lot of emotion in that one... It was pretty intense. Obviously, it was pretty physical out there. Emotions were flying. I think it’s a good one to end on to get everyone in the right mindset going into the regular season.
[On how he feels about the team entering the regular season] (I feel) good. There are some things we have to clean up, as a team, but the effort is there, which is what we’re really caring about right now. When Thursday comes around, I think we’ll be ready to go.
[On being named an alternate captain] It’s awesome. We have a great group of guys in here and a lot of other guys could be wearing it, as well. It’s nice to know that you have a coach who trusts in the leadership group in here. Like I said, I think everyone in here has the potential to be a leader and step up.