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About Last Night: Going Down Fighting

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The Hurricanes couldn’t quite complete the comeback at home against the Washington Capitals Friday, falling 4-3 in a game where they trailed 4-1 in the final frame.

NHL: Washington Capitals at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

A third-period comeback effort fell short for the Carolina Hurricanes Friday night in PNC Arena, as the Canes fell to the rival Washington Capitals 4-3 after trailing 4-1 early in the third period.

The Canes came to life late and didn’t go down without a fight, but it wasn’t quite enough to start out the new decade with a big win against a divisional foe. Still, the Hurricanes showed some bright spots in a tough loss.

A power outage and a power surge

Whatever adjustments Rod Brind’Amour and his staff made to the Hurricanes’ power play in the second intermission clearly worked, as the Canes’ man advantage did a complete 180 in the final frame.

A big reason the Hurricanes fell behind in this one was their inability to capitalize and really do anything on the power play. Through the first two periods the Canes were 0 for 4 with a man advantage, and the way the power-play units played was even uglier than that number suggests. Carolina didn’t get great shots, and didn’t spend much time in the offensive zone during the power plays.

However, something clicked for Carolina in the third period. After Washington extended its lead to 4-1, the Canes scored on back-to-back power plays to cut it to 4-3 and give themselves a fighting chance to win the game.

Teuvo Teravainen scored the first of them, firing into an open net after a rebound and a pass from Sebastian Aho. The power-play goal came a whole eight seconds into the man advantage, and gave the Hurricanes some new life.

Four minutes later T.J. Oshie went to the box for slashing, and the Hurricanes again were clinical on the power play. Ryan Dzingel rifled one in from the slot, beating Caps’ goalie Ilya Samsanov with an absolutely beautiful effort.

There was no lack of fight in the Canes effort down the stretch, and the adjustments on the power play played a huge part in that. Any regulation loss counts the same in the standings, but this one felt a little different for the Hurricanes. After getting completely outplayed in the second period, the Canes came out fighting and didn’t die easily.

No bite to the penalty kill

While the Canes power play redeemed itself late in the game, Carolina’s penalty kill was a big reason for the loss. The Capitals scored two power-play goals in four opportunities, as the Hurricanes penalty kill lacked any edge.

After Washington opened up the scoring early in the second period, the Capitals got an opportunity to make it 2-0 after Aho went to the box for interference a few minutes later. Washington capitalized on the chance, as Evgeny Kuznetsov fought for position on the back side of the net and finished off a great pass from John Carlson.

Hurricanes’ captain Jordan Staal cut Washington’s lead to 2-1 very early in the third period, but momentum quickly shifted back to the Capitals after Erik Haula was called for slashing. With Haula in the box, Washington’s Lars Eller found the back of the net after collecting a miss off the boards from Alex Ovechkin. Eller was all alone by the net, and his finish was an easy one to grow Washington’s lead back to two goals.

The Canes did have a late kill in the second period, and another in third on a Washington power play where the Capitals seemed perfectly content to just run out the clock, but overall the penalty kill let Carolina down.

After going on a great run in early December where they only allowed one power-play goal in six games, the Hurricanes’ penalty kill units have struggled lately. In Carolina’s last eight outings, the opponent has scored on the power play in seven of them. In five of those games, including Friday night, Carolina has let up multiple power-play goals.

The Canes’ have killed penalties at a rate of just over 61 percent over their last eight games, as the penalty kill has strayed away from the consistency it had been experiencing. If the Canes want to build on a strong season and stay afloat in the race for a top-three spot in the Metropolitan Division, they’re going to have to figure out the penalty kill.

A hockey rivalry in a hockey town

There was absolutely no love lost between the Hurricanes and Capitals Friday night, as the two teams played a chippy game, particularly down the stretch. The Caps-Canes rivalry has brewed into a good one over the past year, really stemming from a contentious first-round playoff series that the Canes won in an unforgettable game seven.

In that series, it was a hit from Canes’ forward Warren Foegele that knocked Capitals’ forward Oshie out of game four, and the rest of the series. Regardless of Foegele’s intent on that hit, Oshie got a little bit of payback Friday night. He took a shot against Foegele in the third period, and then another, which gave Carolina a power play that resulted in Dzingel’s goal.

Later in the period, Oshie delivered a wild hit on Hurricanes’ defenseman Dougie Hamilton, who returned the favor with a punch to Oshie’s head. This time it was Hamilton that got sent to the box for his retaliation.

It wasn’t just Oshie either. Earlier in the game, Brendan Leipsic threw a punch at Andrei Svechnikov, and Nic Dowd proceeded to toss Svechnikov’s stick over the glass. The Canes were obviously not just innocent bystanders to the chippiness either, as both teams seemed to be going at each other all night.

There’s clearly a disdain between the Canes and Capitals, and one that should only continue to grow with one more meeting this year followed by what should be a couple of years of success for both squads.

With the players on the ice battling, the crowd in PNC Arena was buzzing. It was an electric atmosphere in the Canes’ building, one that is becoming more and more commonplace in an arena that suffered a few years of empty seats.

The Hurricanes had an absolutely fantastic 2019, and the fans are excited and filling the building. Friday night marked the third straight sell out for the Canes, and the fifth in the last seven games. Considering what the years past in Carolina have looked like, the excitement that this team is bringing to the area can’t be overstated.

Wrapping Up

Things didn’t end up going the Hurricanes’ way Friday night, but the late effort was admirable. The Canes and Capitals have a knack for producing thrilling battles, and the latest entry into the rivalry was no different.

The Canes are in the middle of a seven-game homestand right now, and they will be back in action Sunday in a late-afternoon tilt with the Tampa Bay Lightning.