After splitting games one through four, the Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals were firmly placed in the middle of another must-watch first-round playoff series in the NHL 20 simulation.
Today, we recap games five and six of the series, which proved to be all that the Hurricanes needed to win their second straight playoff date with the Capitals.
For more information on how this series works, please refer to part one.
Without further ado, here’s how the Hurricanes ousted the Capitals and clinched a trip to the Eastern Conference Semifinals in NHL 20.
Fresh off of surrendering their series lead, the Hurricanes rattled off what may have been their most convincing effort of the entire season.
Out of the box, Carolina outshot Washington 10-3 through the first half of the period, but Braden Holtby was up to the challenge. That changed at the 13:21 mark.
Dougie Hamilton threaded a gorgeous spring pass up the ice to Sebastian Aho. Aho had a clean breakaway at the Capitals’ blue line and didn’t make a mistake. He sent a clean shot under the blocker of Holtby to silence the Capital One Arena crowd and give the Canes a 1-0 lead.
Less than three minutes later, Warren Foegele drew a cross-checking penalty on Alex Ovechkin, and Aho found the back of the net again.
After Teuvo Teravainen sent a shot off of the post, Aho retrieved the loose puck and worked it back to Hamilton. Hamilton’s point shot deflected off of a Washington skater in front and right to the stick of Andrei Svechnikov, who found an undetected Aho at the backdoor.
Aho’s second goal of the period extended the Carolina lead to 2-0 through twenty minutes.
Dmitri Orlov responded with a goal just under two minutes into the second period, beating Petr Mrazek with a point shot through traffic in front. That was all Washington could put together, though, as the Hurricanes went back to work and ultimately ran away with game five.
Jordan Staal shoveled a loose puck through a bevy of humanity at the 7:10 mark of the middle frame to make it 3-1. Foegele and Justin Williams were credited with the assists on the goal.
Just over half way through the period, the Capitals pieced together their best five-minute span of hockey all night, pummeling Mrazek with high-quality shots. Carolina’s starter stood tall, though.
In the dying moments of the second period, the Hurricanes scored what felt like the dagger goal. A long offensive zone shift from the Capitals was snuffed out by the Hurricanes, and they moved the puck up ice instantly upon gaining possession.
That led to a long two-on-one opportunity for Vincent Trocheck and Nino Niederreiter. Trocheck and Niederreiter played catch at the top of the Washington blue line before Trocheck slid a pass through the legs of John Carlson and onto the tape of Niederreiter for a late second-period goal to extend the Canes’ lead to three goals.
Washington had a strong push in the opening minutes of the third period, but Carolina weathered the storm and played a dominant final 15 minutes.
The Capitals managed just four shots on goal in those 15 minutes, failing to get a puck by Mrazek in the process. The Hurricanes, on the other hand, sent nine shots on net and beat Holtby once more to make it a 5-1 game.
Jake Gardiner sent a long-range wrist shot cleanly through a screen in front from Staal. The shot beat Holtby to his glove side.
In games four and five, the road team picked up big wins. In game six, the Hurricanes were back home and they were looking to buck the trend.
The first period was tight-checking and uneventful. The two clubs combined for just 11 shots on goals - six for Washington and five for Carolina.
The quiet star of the opening period was Jaccob Slavin, who blocked three shots and laid two hits in 9:38 of ice time.
The second period opened up big time for the offense, which put Mrazek and Holtby on notice. The teams combined for eleven in the opening seven minutes, and it was shot number 11 that opened the scoring.
Martin Necas hammered a one-time shot on the power play up and over the shoulder of Holtby. The Canes had a 1-0 lead in a potential elimination game. Gardiner and Trocheck notched the assists on the goal.
Washington got a power play of their own several minutes later when Jordan Martinook got caught for high-sticking. Carolina had a masterful kill, at least through the first 1:45. In the dying seconds of the man advantage, the Capitals generated their best chance of the game to that point - a one-time shot from Ovechkin that rang the crossbar and shot out of play.
Rod Brind’Amour’s group got a huge break.
Back at 5-on-5, the play went back and forth with both teams creating dangerous scoring opportunities. Mrazek denied Evgeny Kuznetsov on a breakaway opportunity with three minutes left in the period to keep the Caps off of the scoreboard.
Carolina was in possession of a 1-0 lead entering the third period.
Win the period, win the game, win the series.
In the opening minute, a sold out PNC Arena crowd was ignited yet again. Joel Edmundson blocked a shot in the high slot, which led to Gardiner breaking the puck out of the zone to Foegele. Foegele entered the zone, shifted to the middle of the ice and fired a shot off of Holtby’s chest. The rebound bounced right onto the top of the crease, where Staal swooped in snuck the puck by the outstretched right pad of Holtby to make it 2-0.
From there, Mrazek had one of his best periods of the season. In the third period, Mrazek racked up 15 saves, including five on Ovechkin and three on Nicklas Backstrom.
Washington pulled Holtby for an extra attacker with three minutes left in the game, and it only took forty seconds for the Hurricanes to put an exclamation point on the series.
Teravainen broke the puck out to Aho, and Aho set up Svechnikov for an empty-net goal. The celebration could commence, the Hurricanes were on the verge of eliminating the Capitals from postseason contention for the second year in a row.
The final story to be told was in net for Carolina. Mrazek made one last big save with just under a minute to go, which sparked a loud ovation from the crowd that continued until the final horn.
The Hurricanes beat the Capitals 3-0 in game six, securing a 4-2 series win in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Mrazek was nothing short of phenomenal in games five and six, allowing just one goal across ~120 minutes of goaltending. Aho’s offense was on display in the final two games of the series, as well. He helped lead the charge, alongside stellar play from the top pairing of Slavin and Hamilton.
Round two starts next week.