They would do so with a depleted lineup as illness and injury took over the Caps’ locker room. Mike Ribeiro, Marcus Johansson, Wojtek Wolski, and Dmitry Orlov all were held out of the game, giving Zach Hamill his second start this week for Washington and giving Matthias Sjogren his first start in the NHL.
Things did not start well for the Caps as Eric Staal opened the scoring just 55 seconds into the contest when the Caps got sloppy with the puck in their own end. Jack Hillen tried to send a pass through the middle to Nicklas Backstrom at the Carolina blue line. Staal flagged the puck down, though and ripped a wrist shot past goalie Michal Neuvirth to give the Hurricane fans something to cheer early on.
The home team added to its lead at the 9:12 mark. This time is was Jordan Staal figuring in the scoring, Staal outworked Jeff Schultz behind the Caps’ net and slid a backhand pass into the slot where Tuomo Ruutu buried the puck before Neuvirth could react. Head coach Adam Oates called his timeout at this point, not liking what he was seeing on the ice, the Caps having wasted two power play opportunities and allowed two goals in less than ten minutes.
The timeout seemed to settle the Caps, at least on defense. They could not, however, find a way to solve Carolina goalie Cam Ward. The first period ended with the Hurricanes leading, 2-0, and leading on the shot meter by a 9-8 margin.
Things did not improve much for the Caps to open the second period. Jack Hillen and Joey Crabb took penalties 32 seconds apart in the fourth minute to give Carolina a 5-on-3 power play. Michal Neuvirth was nothing short of amazing in leading the penalty kill, fending off six shots in the 1:28 of 5-on-3 play and another two shots in the 5-on-4 portion of the power play.
The penalty kill gave the Caps a lift, as they dominated territory for much of the rest of the period. They could not, however, find the back of the net on two more power plays, making them 0-for-5 in the first 37 minutes of the game. They finally broke through with less than two minutes left in the second period when Joel Ward scored his fifth of the year, poking a loose puck past Cam Ward’s left pad. The second period ended that way, with Carolina holding on to a 2-1 lead and a 21-17 lead in shots on goal.
Washington opened the third period with heavy pressure on Carolina, but they were having trouble getting pucks all the way to the Hurricane net. The inability to take advantage of that pressure came back to haunt the Caps when Jussi Jokinen wristed a puck past Neuvirth from the left wing circle with just 6:29 left. It looked grim for the Caps as the clock wound down toward the two minute mark. Then Carolina suffered a breakdown. John Carlson reversed the puck along the rear wall, and Joe Corvo tried to corral it at the Capitals’ blue line. He was late getting there, though, and the puck slid into the neutral zone where Jason Chimera picked it up. Chimera started out with Jamie McBain back. Brooks Laich joined in the play to make it a 2-on-1. Chimera held the puck as he entered the offensive zone, then ripped a shot that Ward got a pad on. The rebound came out to Laich, who batted it back and into the back of the Carolina net to get the Caps within a goal.
Just over a minute later, with Neuvirth called to the bench and the Caps skating 6-on-5, the visitors tied it up. Alex Ovechkin circled out from the left wing wall after picking up a loose puck off the stick of Mathieu Perreault. As he skated inside the faceoff dot he used defenseman Tim Gleason as a screen for a wrist shot. Cam Ward saw it at the last moment and got his left pad on the shot. But he was in no position to defend a rebound, and Nicklas Backsrom pounced on it for the equalizer with just 47 seconds left in regulation.
That is how the 60-minute portion of the game ended, and the teams went to overtime. Carolina had the better of the play in the extra session, but Neuvirth turned away all six shots he faced. Cam Ward faced only two shots at the other end, keeping the back of his own net clear.
That left it to the Gimmick. Matt Hendricks, Alex Ovechkin, and Mathiew Perreault took turns unsuccessfully for the Caps, while Jeff Skinner and Eric Staal failed in their own trick shot attempts. Jussi Jokinen finished things off for the home team, though, when he snuck a snap shot through Neuvirth’s five hole that the goalie couldn’t squeeze. Carolina skated off with a 4-3 shootout win and extended it’s lead in the Southeast Division to three points.
Hurricanes 4 – Capitals 3 (OT/SO)