Thursday, April 18, 2019

Eastern Conference Quarterfinal - Game 4: Hurricanes 2 - Capitals 1

The Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes faced off in Game 4 of their first round playoff series on Thursday night at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. Carolina parlayed an early goal in the first period and a late one in the second, plus solid netminding from goalie Petr Mrazek, to take a 2-1 decision to tie the series at two games apiece.

First Period

It took Carolina 17 seconds to break on top.  Warren Foegele continued his assault on the Caps in this series. Justin Williams started the scoring play by skating the puck into the Caps’ zone and feeding it to Jaccob Slavin darting down the middle.  Drawing the Caps defense to him, Slavin slid the puck to Foegele closing from the left side, and Foegele snapped the puck into what was an open net past goalie Braden Holtby to give Carolina the early lead.  The early lead held up for the rest of the first period, the teams going off at the first intermission with Carolina holding the slim lead.

-- The Caps out-shot Carolina, 9-8, and they out-attempted them by an 18-14 margin.

-- Jakub Vrana and Carl Hagelin led the team in shots on goal with two apiece.

-- T.J. Oshie led the club with four of the Caps’ total of 14 credited hits.

Second Period

The Caps looked slow and discombobulated in the first period, and as the second period started it seemed clear they needed a break. They got it in the ninth minute of the period when Teivo Teravainen was sent off on a hooking penalty.  With the ensuing power play about to expire, Dmitry Orlov faked a shot to lure goalie Petr Mrazek out and into a defensive position.  Orlov slid the puck off to Alex Ovechkin, and the captain’s one timer beat Mrazek cleanly on the short side at the 10:35 mark.

The Caps grabbed some momentum from the tying goal, but gave it back in the last minute of the period.  Sebastian Aho was nudged off the puck as he entered the Caps’ zone, but Nino Niederreiter collected it and found Teivo Teravainen cutting through the middle.  Teravainen caught Brooks Orpik flatfooted in a no-man’s land between Niederreiter and Teravainen, resulting in the latter having a clear path to the net.  He snapped a shot past Holtby’s glove with 28 seconds left in the period, and Carolina had a 2-1 lead going to the second intermission.

--Washington out-shot the Hurricanes, 14-9, in the period and out-attempted them, 21-20.

-- The goal for the Caps snapped a streak of 90:35 without one, going back to the overtime goal in Game 2 to win, 4-3.

-- Through two periods, Matt Niskanen, Jonas Siegenthaler, and Andre Burakovsky did not have a shot attempt.

Third Period

The Caps lost the period.  Not because anyone scored – neither team lit the lamp – but because the Caps might have lost T.J. Oshie for a while.  With just under five minutes left, Warren Foegele trailed T.J. Oshie, and as the two skated toward the right wing wall, Foegele ran Oshi head first into the boards.  Oshie was down for quite a while, and when he finally got to his feet, he skated slowly to the tunnel with his right arm cradled in the other.  Foegele was charged only with a two-minute boarding call.  Washington failed to convert the power play chance, and their last chance to make a game of it drifted away.  Carolina skated off with a 2-1 win to tie the series that returns to Washington on Saturday.

Other stuff…

-- After dominating over the first two periods in shots and shot attempts, the Caps managed only 16 shot attempts and eight shots on goal in the final 20 minutes.

-- John Carlson led the team with five shots on goal and seven shot attempts.

-- Carlson also led the club in blocked shots with five.

-- Last spring, the Caps trailed after 40 minutes only four times in 24 games (they won once).  This was the second straight game in which they trailed after two periods.

-- Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky, and Evgeny Kuznetesov were the only Caps not credited with at least one hit.

-- There were only 44 faceoffs in this game, the Caps winning 23 of them (52.3 percent).

-- Ovechkin’s goal was his 23rd career playoff power play goal, tying him for 24th place all time with Joe Nieuwendyk and Brian Bellows.  He is third among active players, trailing Evgeni Malkin (27) and Patrick Marleau (24).

-- The Caps were credited with only three takeaways in the game.  Carolina recorded 15.

-- This was the 25th time in his career that Braden Holtby faced 24 or fewer shots in the postseason.  He is now 13-12 in those games.

-- The Caps failed to record an even strength goal for the second straight game.  It is the first time this season that happened.

In the end…

First minute goal in one period, last minute goal in another.  Game.  This series has taken an ominous “time machine” quality in which Caps fans of a certain age can remember journeyman goalies going all Jacques Plante or Ken Dryden against the Caps in the postseason.  OK, it isn’t yet at the “Halak” level of 2010 headscratchiness, but one can glimpse the summit.  Perhaps it’s goalies whose last names end in “K.”  Whatever, the Caps are going to have to deal with the potential absence of T.J. Oshie and find a way to get some production at the offensive end of the ice.  The bottom six forwards have to contribute something, and in this regard they resemble the squads that lost to the Penguins in consecutive years, not the group that skated last season.  Fourteen of 20 skaters to dress for the Caps have not recorded a goal in four games.  That number needs to be whittled down, or it will be a sad April for the Caps.