Coming off of a rough finish in Detroit on Tuesday, the Carolina Hurricanes were looking to get back in the win column on Thursday night in DC.
That didn’t happen.
The Washington Capitals dominated the opening 40 minutes and tolerated the Hurricanes for the final 20 minutes of a 4-0 shutout win.
The first period was a mess for Carolina, one of their worst periods of the year, especially on offense, where they failed to generate a single high-danger scoring chance.
They were slow and ineffective, which was exacerbated by them taking three minor penalties, including two consecutively late in the period when Ethan Bear got the gate for holding, and Brady Skjei followed him 40 seconds later for high-sticking.
Evgeny Kuznetsov broke through at the tail end of the long 5-on-3 and beat Frederik Andersen from all alone in the slot to make it a 1-0 game.
While the Capitals faired only slightly better than the Hurricanes at 5-on-5 in the opening frame, they weren’t a step or two faster all over the ice, and they took advantage of a gift from the Canes late in the frame.
Rod Brind’Amour referred to his team’s opening period as “Really bad,” which was an apt description.
They were fortunate to escape the opening 20 with just a one-goal deficit, but their luck ran out in the second period.
A defensive breakdown just before the halfway point of the period led to Washington’s second goal of the night, off the stick of Martin Fehervary, who was left wide open in the slot.
Five minutes later, the Hurricanes took their season penalty of the period and their fifth of the night. They celebrated that achievement by leaving Alex Ovechkin open for a second too long in his office at the top of the left circle, resulting in their third goal against.
Carolina didn’t go without their chances in the second period, ramping things up dramatically in the shot department and generating a handful of high-danger chances. But unfortunately, neither of Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s two excellent chances in the slot made it on goalie Vitek Vanecek.
Also, their best and most dangerous forward just so happened to be the guy who hasn’t been able to buy a goal for two and a half months - that player being Martin Necas, who was all over the ice making plays but got shut down by Vanecek on multiple occasions.
Necas had three of Carolina’s seven logged scoring chances at 5-on-5 through two periods.
With the Capitals parking the bus in the third period, the Hurricanes accumulated more xGF in the first six minutes of 5-on-5 play in the third than they did in 26:40 of 5-on-5 minutes through two periods.
On some nights, that means they were unbelievably good in the third period. Tonight, it meant that they were notably bad in the first and second periods.
They definitely juiced the shot totals after the Capitals took their three-goal lead, but it was too little, too late. Vanecek was there to shut them down at every turn, and Washington added a garbage-time goal before they closed out their 4-0 shutout win at Capital One Arena.
After how rough Tuesday’s game in Detroit ended, the Hurricanes were certainly hoping for a better effort than they put forth in the nation’s capital on Thursday night.
Andersen stopped 29 of 33 shots and played well, considering the lackluster game played in front of him for most of the night. Two of Washington’s goals came on the power play, one by way a wide-open 5-on-3 and the other from a guy who will pass Jaromir Jagr on the all-time goals list in the next week or two.
The story of the night was how slow the Canes looked through 40 minutes and their continued high penalty-committing rate. They took six minor penalties on Thursday.
Another story is that the Hurricanes are now one for their last nine in nationally televised regular-season games. This season, they’re 0-2-1 in such games.