RALEIGH, N.C. – Costly turnovers caused the Carolina Hurricanes to suffer a gut-wrenching 2-1 loss to the Washington Capitals at PNC Arena on Thursday.
It was a bittersweet ending for Carolina and one that left a bad taste in head coach Bill Peters’ mouth.
“We need to learn and manage the puck better in certain situations, and be aware of the time of the game,” he said.
“I didn’t like our second – I didn’t like our second at all,” Peters continued.
“I liked our start and I liked our third, but in the second I thought we came of it, so did we push for 60 minutes here at home? Probably not.”
While forward Alexander Semin excited the crowd of 10,783 in the building when he scored his first goal of the season and reached the 500-point career mark, that feeling dissipated as they watched goaltender Anton Khudobin eventually suffer his sixth loss of the season while making 26 saves.
Jay Beagle and Eric Fehr posted Washington’s goals while Braden Holtby made 29 stops to earn his ninth win of the season.
Carolina kept Holtby busy during the opening 10 minutes of the game, outshooting the Caps 8-4.
However, a turnover by Hurricanes defenseman Michal Jordan, playing in only his fifth NHL game of the season since being recalled from Charlotte, put the Hurricanes behind early.
Jordan lost control of the puck inside the Caps the blue line and Washington forward Jason Chimera got a hold of it and quickly took off the other way.
Chimera broke into the Carolina zone and got a shot on Khudobin with Jordan and defensive partner Ron Hainsey chasing.
While both defenseman focused on the shooter, Khudobin’s pad save on the shot left a juicy rebound for the trailer Beagle, who easily shoveled the puck into the net to give Washington a 1-0 lead at the 2:19 mark.
“I kind of last my balance,” Jordan said.
“It was a tough one.”
With the lead, Washington continued to pick up its pace offensively and kept the Hurricanes hemmed in their zone during the latter part of the opening period.
Washington was afforded two power plays, both in the second period, but couldn’t capitalize on either, while Carolina couldn’t draw one throughout.
It was a particular sore point for Peters as his team was denied any extra-man opportunities which he thought was peculiar.
“Would I have liked to see their penalty killers? I know who they are – I didn’t who they were gonna’ be tonight, but I do know who they use typically,” Peters quipped.
“Very rarely you can play a game that’s 1-1 with five minutes to go in your building and not have the power play. I think that’s very rare when the shots are even. Kind of makes me think…There’s penalties, you gotta’ call penalties. There’s a pretty tight standard typically in this league. I thought there’s maybe a couple, maybe not – maybe I’m the one that’s wrong.”
After the Capitals were unable to take advantage of their second power play as it ended early in the third period, Carolina gained momentum and put together a sequence at even strength that paid off.
Semin got a pass in the high slot from defenseman Jay Harrison on a play initiated along the blue line by John-Michael Liles.
As Semin moved closer to the net with the puck while being loosely covered by the Caps’ Andre Burakovsky, he launched a backhand shot high over Holtby’s stick-side shoulder that beat the keeper to tie the game 1-1.
The goal caused a loud eruption of elation from those in the stands as it ended the forward’s 19-game goalless drought this season and also achieved a career milestone for him.
Though Semin was not available for comment, Khudobin provided his thoughts on his teammate’s goal.
“I’m really happy for him.”
“Even in the second period I came to him and said, ‘hey – don’t put your head down – just keep shooting the puck and you’ll get something’. Sometimes it’s just gonna’ bounce somewhere and gonna’ get behind the net and pretty much hit it. He created a pretty good chance – partners helped him too. He put puck in the right spot.”
Semin finished with a game-high five shots on goal and Peters was also glad to see the result.
“He’s starting to come,” Peters said.
“He’s workin’ hard, workin’ without the puck, which is what he has to do.”
With the score tied and just over four minutes remaining, Fehr created the game-winning goal opportunity for Washington.
The Caps winger picked the puck up inside the Carolina blue line after he swept it loose from Riley Nash’s stick and broke straight towards the net with it.
As Hurricanes defenseman Michal Jordan dove and slashed him, the Caps forward maintained control and pulled the puck across from his backhand and put a forehand shot over Khudobin’s glove to score the eventual winner.
Both goals against were disappointing to give up and the Russian keeper didn’t mince words when speaking about it after suffering another one-goal loss.
“We have to play smarter,” Khudobin said.
“Five minutes into the game…and you can’t do something wrong with the puck on your own blue line, that’s pretty much it.”
Carolina pulled Khudobin with almost a full three minutes left and attempted to tie the game throughout.
With diligent and effective puck possession in the extra-man situation Carolina got three more shots on Holtby, but the Caps’ defensive play in blocking four more shot attempts from Justin Faulk, Jeff Skinner, Semin, and Ron Hainsey all but ended it.
It was a missed opportunity to salvage at least a point against a Metropolitan Division opponent.
“League games, you gotta’ manage the puck, you gotta’ be aware, you gotta’ be intelligent,” Peters said.
“It’s the best league in the world for a reason. You gotta’ play at a high level, you gotta’ think at a high level.”
Though on the surface the game hung on mistakes made by young players, Peters wasn’t about to give up on anyone, even with the team sitting with an 8-14-3 record.
“We don’t need to change personnel,” Peters said.
“We gotta’ make our players better. We gotta’ make our players better from within. These are young guys, right? Michal Jordan might have been on the ice for both of them – how many NHL games has he played? He’s gotta’ learn, and that’s the deal. Nasher’s 25 and had it on his stick in the third. Maybe that could have went up the wall. Jiri Tlusty could have chipped that up into the neutral zone and allow us to get a forecheck goin’. There’s a 100 different things. Our personnel is fine. We need to coach ‘em up – we need to do a better job. We need to dig in.”
Losing its second out of three games during its current home stand, Carolina will regroup quickly with a practice on Saturday in preparation for a back-to-back set at PNC Arena on Sunday and Monday against the Detroit Red Wings and New Jersey Devils.
Notes: Semin’s scoring slump actually extended as far back as 25 games, having gone without a goal during the final six games of the 2013-2014 season, last scoring on Mar. 25 against the New York Islanders…Khudobin’s 0-6-2 record includes one-goal losses in three of his last four starts…Elias Lindholm (5-7, 71%), Nash (7-11, 67%), and Eric Staal (9-5, 60%), helped to keep Carolina on the upper end of the battle for puck possession on the draw with a 53-percent finish overall.