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About Yesterday Afternoon: Late goal topples Canes’ comeback effort

Despite a strong third period effort, the Carolina Hurricanes lost to the Washington Capitals, 4-2, Sunday afternoon in PNC Arena.

Washington Capitals v Carolina Hurricanes Photo by Gregg Forwerck /NHLI via Getty Images

Despite the end result, a 4-2 loss to the Washington Capitals, it was a well-played game and a very good showing from the Carolina Hurricanes Sunday afternoon.

It was a bit of bad luck, some solid goaltending from the opposition and a really bad time for a penalty that sunk the Canes’ efforts, but the overall game showed that Carolina could have easily been on the other side of the final score.

“It was a good battle,” said Sebastian Aho after the game. “Two good teams out there. The way I see it, there’s two teams that compete hard and have high skill both ways. There’s a little bit of history there. So yeah, for sure they are good high-intensity matches.”

It should be an entertaining matchup as the season continues, but let’s focus in on this past one.

Physical Test

Nobody in the Eastern Conference plays as heavy and physical of a game as the Washington Capitals, and after their first contest between the two teams, it’s fair to say that this iteration of the Carolina Hurricanes can hold its own very well.

While Washington was obviously the more aggressive team, Carolina responded well to the hits with a few big ones of its own throughout the night. It was important to respond in the right way, showing that they aren’t a team to get pushed around, while not getting dragged too deep into that style of play.

Jordan Staal, Steven Lorentz and Brendan Smith led the way with three hits apiece and most of the lineup chipped in with multiple thrown hits.

The Canes seem to be a more battle tested group this season, not only with the pieces that were brought in to help in that aspect, but also with the core group. A good sign moving forward.

Scoring Support

Jesperi Kotkaniemi continues to impress after his move back to center and what a shot that was to kick off the scoring for Carolina.

Kotkaniemi now has five goals on the season and is fourth on the Hurricanes behind only Aho (10), Svechnikov (8) and… Fast (6)? (He’d be tied for second on the Canadiens just in case anyone was curious).

Nino Niederreiter was another player it was good to see get back on the scoresheet with a shot very similar to the first goal.

“At the end of the day, I try to shoot wherever is open,” Niederreiter said after the game. “I’m glad it went in. It’s obviously good to get on the scoresheet, but at the end of the day it wasn’t enough to win the hockey game. That’s the bad part about it.”

It was his first goal since October 28, but first in just seven games as Niederreiter had missed a bit of time with a lower-body injury. Niederreiter’s injury had opened the way for Seth Jarvis to get playing time, so now it seems the Canes are getting the best of both worlds out if it.

Special Teams and Penalties

Does a goal scored seconds after a power play expires still feel like it should be credited as a success for the power play units?

In a way, yes because if the penalized player hasn’t managed to rejoin the play, then it was still just like a man-advantage.

But also the Niederreiter goal was the direct recipient of a brutal Lars Eller turnover. But also Necas and Pesce did set up a great passing sequence to Niederreiter.

Weird spot, but I’ll say props to the second unit and that the first unit still needs to find a way to convert.

The penalty kill did their jobs for most of the night and got beat on a 2-man advantage, so I’m also going to give them credit for a good night.

The one goal against was also a product of the kill’s high aggression style as Teuvo Teravainen and Brady Skjei got caught chasing the puck to the high wall and left Brett Pesce alone at the net in between a triangle of Capitals players and one tic-tac-toe sequence later, a goal scored.

Officiating was a big talking point among fans, but at the end of the day, what the Hurricanes did were penalties. Would you like more consistency with how the game is reffed for the full 60-minutes? Yes, but you can’t expect and rely on that. It’s never been like that.

“You want to let the guys that are out there decide it,” said Rod Brind’Amour after the game. “That’s not what happened, I guess. But it is a penalty. By these rules, you’re not allowed to hack a guys stick, even though, like I said, it wouldn’t have mattered. Do you wish they would have let it go? Yeah. But if I’m on the other side I might be saying it should have been a penalty. It is what it is.”

The team gets called a ton because of how up-tempo and aggressive they play. The officials are not out for them, it’s just that he Canes really don’t do themselves any favors. Their excellent penalty kill masks the problem, but the frequency of penalties has been a concern for years now.

They are back up to second in the entire league for penalties taken per 60 (4.38) after yesterday.

Increased discipline has to come at some point and especially when it’s that late into a game.