RALEIGH, N.C. – The Carolina Hurricanes pulled one shoulder up off the mat on Monday.
Trailing 2-0 in their best-of-seven opening-round NHL Stanley Cup Playoff series against the Washington Capitals, the Hurricanes were looking at being pinned if they couldn’t win pivotal Game 3.
Two-goal finishes from Warren Foegele and Dougie Hamilton along with a single from Brock McGinn fortified an 18-save 5-0 shutout win for goaltender Petr Mrazek.
It was as complete a 60-minute game that Carolina played – forechecking and backchecking end-to-end, and not backing down from a Washington squad that had beat them six times this season.
“I think we talked about it and were hoping we could play our game,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said.
“I don’t think we played well our first two games. Right from the start it was good. The guys understand the situation we’re in, a must-win situation. I think we played like that.”
Winning, but losing
As impressive as the win was, an even more significant factor for Carolina was the simultaneous loss of forwards Andrei Svechnikov and Micheal Ferland, both injured during the opening period of play.
Most notable was the Russian rookie’s head injury suffered in a fight at the hands of Washington captain and fellow countryman Alex Ovechkin.
After being noticeably KO’d, Svechnikov’s helmeted head hit the ice surface on the follow-through as Ovechkin followed him down to the ice.
Being escorted off the ice with training staff on either side of him, the forward had played just five shifts, registering a shot on goal and a hit to his credit.
The Hurricanes coach was visibly upset talking about the situation.
“Svech means a lot to us – a young kid who just turned 19,” Brind’Amour began.
“He has a special bond with our group, with me too. So, when you see that, it makes you sick. I’m still sick to my stomach about it.”
With Ferland also suffering an upper-body injury from a play along the boards three minutes later, Carolina was faced with playing with two less on the bench.
Leading 1-0 heading into the second period following Foegele’s first career playoff goal, a deflection off a point shot, the rookie extended the lead to two when he one-timed a Sebastian Aho pass past Caps netminder Braden Holtby at the 6:09 mark.
“I thought we were engaged from the start,” Foegele said.
“We all battled together – we battled hard.”
A point shot from Hamilton on the power play put Carolina ahead 3-0 five minutes later.
Limiting Washington to just one shot throughout the period, the Hurricanes were firmly in control at that point.
They never took their hands off the wheel for the remainder and added two more goals from Hamilton and McGinn to finish it all off.
“I think we’re playing against a desperate team that had a little bit more desperation level than our team had tonight,” Capitals coach Todd Rierden said.
“You know, we didn’t deserve to win. They pushed and we didn’t push back in certain areas.”
Taking advantage of the circumstances
With a loud standing-room-only crowd of 18,783 hitting decibel levels nearing 120, Carolina was fueled by physical as well as emotional energy.
“You could feel that in the building I think,” Jordan Staal said.
“Obviously an emotional game. When you know every hit is gonna get everyone fired up, it gets you goin’ and gives you an extra boost to take a couple of more strides and finish them off. We knew we had to invest in physicality, invest in their D, play in their end and play hard.”
Keeping the Caps hemmed in their zone at times while outshooting them by a 45-18 margin highlighted how much the Hurricanes fed off critical factors that avoided another loss – urgency, emotion, energy.
According to Staal, even while playing with fewer players, they still found a way to earned their first over the Caps.
“The boys rallied, kept pushin’, and found a way to get a W.”
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport