Ilya Samsonov made 38 saves and the Capitals stopped a two-game losing streak in physical, snarly fashion, topping the Hurricanes 4-3 in a game marked by special teams play on both sides.
The decision to play Samsonov paid dividends for Todd Rierden early, as the Caps rookie faced 18 shots in the first period and stopped every one, including an early chance for popularity-contest winner Warren Foegele (subject of a hilarious bit of opponent trolling by the Canes video team at a TV timeout) on the game’s first shift. Lucas Wallmark had the other grade-A chance, just missing on a rebound, but for the most part the Hurricanes struggled with net front presence, especially on their two power plays.
But at the other end, the Caps could be rueing their misfortune despite only taking seven shots on Mrazek. Jaccob Slavin broke up a two-on-one in textbook fashion to deny Carl Hagelin, and Mrazek himself had to cover for a Jake Gardiner gaffe that sprang Garnet Hathaway in alone.
The game-within-the-game was perhaps more entertaining than the action between the whistles. Expected agitator Tom Wilson did his thing, chasing after Nino Niederreiter a couple of times to no real impact, and Samsonov was tagged for a diving penalty. Capping off the nonsense, Nic Dowd was assessed a ten-minute misconduct penalty at the end of the period for launching Andrei Svechnikov’s stick into the crowd for some reason.
The Canes’ luck ran out in the second, though. Washington opened the scoring 2:58 into the period when Richard Panik’s pass intended for Hagelin on the back door bounced off Brett Pesce and past Mrazek, who had overcommitted. Ninety seconds later, Sebastian Aho took the first of his two interference penalties in the period, and seconds after Dougie Hamilton was stuffed on a breakaway Evgeni Kuznetsov pushed Hamilton out of the way in front of the net, leaving the winger with a tap-in at 5:07 to double the lead.
It could have been even worse, with the Hurricanes failing to establish any offensive pressure for most of the period and only making Samsonov work occasionally. The defense was caught in quicksand most of the period, repeatedly allowing the Capitals to take off on odd-man rushes and forcing Mrazek into bailing the Canes out time and again.
The Canes came out with their pants on fire in the third, Jordan Staal finally getting the home team on the board on the first shift, but an ill-timed slashing penalty to Erik Haula led to the Caps going up by two again on a friendly bounce off the end boards right to an unmarked Lars Eller. Mrazek then let one in he’d want back, surrendering an odd-man break goal to Jakub Vrana by failing to hold the near post.
But down by three, the Canes weren’t done yet. Seven seconds after Hagelin went to the box for hooking, Teuvo Teravainen took advantage of a fortunate bounce to pull the Canes back to within two. Mrazek did his part, again, stoning Hathaway on another breakaway and swallowing the follow-up as well.
Then, all hell broke loose when T.J. Oshie, looking for revenge on the player who broke his collarbone last season, cross-checked Foegele at the side of the net and everyone came together. With 24 seconds remaining in the penalty, the Canes got it back to a one-goal game when Martin Necas faked a shot and instead found Ryan Dzingel cruising through the slot. Dzingel buried it, sending PNC Arena into hysterics.
But that was as close as the Hurricanes would get, with Hamilton sent to the box with 2:43 to go for a retaliatory punch to the back of Oshie’s head. Despite killing the penalty and pulling Mrazek for the final seconds, the Canes couldn’t finish the job, giving the Capitals their first win of the season series and avenging their loss from six days prior.
They Said It
That’s what you would expect. It seems like every time we play them that’s how the games go. Pretty tight, lots of scoring chances there, but we just didn’t find a way to pull it out.
The first period I thought was pretty good. We deserved better out of the first. The second was not good. Our power play sucked the life out of us, their power play got them going, and that’s the second period. The third period, to come out really good and get another power play goal, I was going to say it was the difference in the game but I really guess it wasn’t necessarily because we got two power play goals as well. The second period, that little lull there, that was where we lost it.
(On the PK’s recent decline:) I’m not sure. The second one, there’s not much you can do about that. Maybe get in the lane initially, but it misses the net and goes of the backboards. Not going to do much differently there. But the first one, honestly, that was a mess up. We messed that up. It’s a tough game because I really thought, of the last games we’ve played, that was one of the better games we’ve played. I thought we we’re going pretty good. It’s a tough loss.
I think (the season has) been pretty good, if you really look at it. Even when we lose, they’re hard losses, but we’re right there. You could arguably say we could have won that game. We kept coming at the end, we had a lot of opportunities. I like this group, how they come to work and they don’t quit. That’s pretty positive. We’ve had some tough losses this year, but again, the guys seem to always dig in, and that’s all you can ask for as a coach.
Our power play kind of bailed us out with a couple of goals, which was good, it made it a game. But I think really, our second period put us in a hole. We didn’t play our game in the second period, and they do a good job of when you’re not on, they’re going to make you pay. They did a good job of that, and we made a push in the third. It’s tough to come back in this league, especially a team like that.
Sucks losing still, but it’s a prideful room. We don’t like going away. We’re going to fight until the horn goes, and I thought the guys did a good job of pushing and fighting their way back into that game, making it interesting. It’s too bad we couldn’t find the last one.
When you see a team in the playoffs, the next year there’s always a little bit of a rivalry. Obviously [they’re] a good team and it’s always a good test when they come in this building, and our fans know it. We know it, and we came up short this time. We’ll have to get them in our building.
Obviously you can’t put yourself in that hole, especially in the NHL. Teams are too good. They’re usually not going to give up that many goals. We just put ourselves in too big of a hole.
I don’t think they were bad bounces. I think we have to clean some stuff up, like I said. You can’t get down 4-1 against the Capitals, that’s the bottom line.
Every team’s going to have a couple teams like that, you play them a lot and there’s history. That’s normal in the NHL, and that makes it a little more fun, especially midseason game 41. It’s nice to have a little extra on the line here and there.
The first two periods (the power play was) horrendous. I don’t think you can get one or two when you have six power plays. We were horrendous in the first two periods. We have to clean it up, at practice tomorrow we’re going to work on it a little bit.
- It’s kind of weird to try to boil that game down to a few talking points. The power play was garbage, the penalty kill only marginally better, yet both were effective at times so you can’t really say they were complete disasters. The Hurricanes did everything but tie the game late. It was entertaining, if nothing else.
- I know we rag on the NHL schedulemaker plenty, but this business of two teams that really hate each other playing three times in the span of three weeks is fantastic. I’d sign up for seven games of this in the playoffs in a heartbeat.
- Oshie was bound and determined to get someone in black dispatched to the penalty box, and it finally paid off when Hamilton, who had a game to forget, came off his rocker for a split second and clocked Oshie in the back of the head with three minutes left. It was as understandable as it was needless, and it probably cost the Hurricanes a real chance at the tying goal.
- Something has changed in the Canes’ penalty kill the past two weeks. I’m not sure what it is, but it isn’t effective anymore. It doesn’t look like anything different on their own end, so maybe other teams have found a weakness and are exploiting it. So now it’s on Rod Brind’Amour and Dean Chynoweth to move their own chess pieces and tinker a bit to make it effective agin. These things happen over the course of the season, so it’s not concerning per se but it does need to be fixed.
- The Canes practice tomorrow at noon at PNC prior to the late afternoon matinee against the Lightning on Sunday.