Saturday, January 13, 2018

A TWO-Point Night: Washington Capitals -- Game 45: Capitals 4 - Hurricanes 3

Hockey is a 60-minute game, and the Washington Capitals used all but 1.3 seconds of it to squeeze out a 4-3 win against the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh on Friday night.

Long before the thrilling finish, the Hurricanes opened the scoring with Jordan Staal finishing a tic-tac-toe passing play on a power play.  It was Sebastian Aho to Justin Williams at the goal line and then out into the slot to Staal for a one-timer while falling to the seat of his pants to make it 1-0 just 3:20 into the game.

Lars Eller tied it for the Caps four minutes later on a power play.  It was an amazing sequence, a pile of bodies fighting for control of the puck at the top of the Carolina crease for more than ten seconds before Eller found a hole and worked the puck through goalie Cam Ward’s pads at the 7:25 mark.

The teams exchanged goals in the second period, Alex Ovechkin doing the honors for the Caps, one-timing a feed from John Carlson past Ward’s glove on the far side as a Caps power play was expiring just 28 seconds into the period.

Aho tied the game for Carolina mid-way through the period on another Hurricane power play, one-timing a feed from Justin Faulk through a maze of bodies past goalie Philipp Grubauer 8:50 into the period.

Jeff Skinner gave Carolina their second lead of the game less than two minutes into the third period. Taking a pass from Lee Stempniak at his own blue line, Skinner weaved his way down ice, gained the offensive zone, curled between defensemen John Carlson and Brooks Orpik, and whistled a shot off the post on the near side to Grubauer’s right and in at the 1:49 mark to make it 3-2.

Washington tied the game with less than five minutes left.  T.J. Oshie hounded Haydn Fleury into a giveaway from below his own goal line, Fleury trying to send the puck up the middle of the ice.  The errant pass made it only as far as Connolly’s stick, and happily accepted the gift, snapping a shot past Ward at the 16:52 mark.

That set up the wild finish.  With the clock winding down, Ovechkin barreled down the left side, but he lost the puck at the top of the left wing circle.  Nicklas Backstrom beat Brook McGinn to the loose puck, and with the clock approaching 0:00, he flung it toward Jay Beagle closing on the net.  Beagle took one swipe at it, then another.  It was the second – one he did not catch fully – that snuck past the pad of Ward with just 1.3 seconds left to give the Caps the 4-3 win as they head into their bye week on the schedule.

Other stuff…

-- John Carlson’s assist on Alex Ovechkin’s goal was Carlson’s 300th point in the NHL.  He is the 24th player in Capitals history to reach that mark

-- Jay Beagle’s game-winning goal extended a remarkable career streak.  The Caps are 39-1-5 in games that Beagle recorded a goal in his career.

-- Lars Eller extended his goal-scoring streak to four games.  It was his tenth goal against the Hurricanes in his career.  He has more against Carolina than against any other team he has faced in the NHL.

-- The two power play goals allowed was the first time the Caps allowed multiple power play goals in a game since the Boston Bruins scored a pair in five chances in 5-3 Caps win in Boston on December 14th.

-- Alex Ovechkin added two assists to his goal, giving him his seventh game with three or more points this season.  That ties hime with Nathan MacKinnon and Blake Wheeler for second-most in the league, one behind John Tavares.  It extended his all-time lead in such games in Caps history, his 97 such games topping the list.

-- The 39 shots allowed tied the second-most allowed by the Caps in a regulation game this season.  They allowed 40 to the Edmonton Oilers in a 5-2 win on October 28th.

-- Even with the 39 shots allowed, the Caps had the edge in shot attempts overall, 62-59.

-- Eight different Caps recorded points, Ovechkin with the only multi-point game.

-- Chandler Stephenson and Christian Djoos did not record a shot attempt.  That means they were without an attempt in both games of the back-to-back with Carolina.

-- With 36 saves in 39 shots faced in this game, Philipp Grubauer is 4-0-2, 1.33, .957, with one shutout in his last seven appearances.

In the end…

It is nice to go into the bye with a win.  It was the Caps' tenth road win of the season.  Better still, the Caps go into the break six points clear of the Columbus Blue Jackets at the top of the Metropolitan Division with a game in hand.  New Jersey lurks, seven points back with four games in hand on the Caps, but they have lost five in a row (0-3-2), and the surprise portion of their season might be coming to an end.  Every other team in the division is now at least ten points behind the Caps, and no team in the Metro has more wins in their last ten games than Washington (6-2-2).

It is a good place to be.  Now, if only Jay Beagle could score more goals after the break.