R.L. Bynum, Correspondent
RALEIGH, N.C. — There was no quieting the raucous crowd on Thursday night.
In fact, just 17 seconds into Game 4, rookie Warren Foegele made the arena-record hockey crowd of 19,202 even louder, and the craziness never stopped as the Carolina Hurricanes evened their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series with the Washington Capitals with a 2-1 victory.
Jaccob Slavin drove hard to the net and backhanded a pass to Foegele, who buried the golden chance for the fastest game-opening or period-opening playoff goal in franchise history.
And the arena was an ear-splitting madhouse the rest of the night.
“I wasn’t expecting the pass because he basically had a breakaway,” said Foegele, who became the fifth rookie in franchise history to score in back-to-back playoff games.
“But it was a phenomenal pass and I was very fortunate to get that in. That was a great pass by Slavin and [Justin Williams] to give it to Slav. It was important to get that first goal and get the momentum in the game.”
Playing in small spaces
With tight defense through the neutral zone, breakdowns were few on either side.
Carolina played well defensively, but it wasn’t quite the overall dominant night the Canes produced in the 5-0 Game 3 victory.
“It wasn’t our best game,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said.
“But just playing an uncomfortable game, not pretty and just hanging in there. And that’s what it really felt like we were doing. In the third period, we had some good chances. But looking at our guys we were pretty much gassed.”
The Canes could just hang on in the third period and play tough defense, thanks to taking advantage of one of the few defensive breakdowns with 27.9 seconds left in the second period.
And it seemed to surprise everyone involved.
After taking a drop-pass from Sebastian Aho, three Caps converged on Nino Niederreiter near the right boards just past the blue line.
His pinpoint pass hit right on the tape of Teuvo Teravainen’s stick as he was wide open and driving toward the goal.
The beautiful score past Caps goalie Braden Holtby’s stick side gave Carolina the lead for good.
“Usually, the first thing you do is look in the middle and I saw him quite open and I had a chance to make that play and he made a great finish,” Niederreiter said.
“Sometimes, you’re a little surprised how open somebody can be at some point and that’s exactly what happened. Mistakes happen, and he was wide open, so it helped definitely.”
Teravainen couldn’t explain it either, other than that he found the back of the net.
“I don’t know what happened there,” Teravainen said.
“Nino got the puck and I was open, so I just take a couple of steps and I had a pretty good chance. So, I got pretty lucky to close my eyes and put it in.”
Petr Mrazek made sure that held up by making some terrific saves to get his fifth career playoff victory, the first that wasn’t a shutout.
At one point, he stopped three shots by John Carlson on a delayed second-period penalty.
On the ensuing Caps power play, Alex Ovechkin made Carolina pay after it had killed 11 consecutive penalties.
Ovechkin rocketed in a one-timer to even the score before Teravainen’s game-winner.
Rubbing is racing
Foegele made a huge play early but took a potentially costly boarding penalty with 5:08 left that sent T.J. Oshie into the boards and perhaps out for the rest of the series.
Caps coach Todd Reirden said that Oshie “won’t be playing anytime soon.”
Ovechkin was upset by the play and Reirden said the league should review it.
“It’s a dirty play,” Ovechkin, who was loudly booed all night, said.
“It has to be not two minutes. It has to be a different call.”
Brind’Amour clearly didn’t see it the same way.
“Crashing the board hard, that’s when the arm went up and he stayed down,” Brind’Amour said.
“You don’t like to see that. I think, more than anything, he wasn’t ready for the hit and we see a lot of hits that are way, way worse than that. I think he just went in awkward. I don’t know the extent of the injury. He barely hit him, I thought. He gave him a little shove, but certainly not what we’ve been seeing.”
Foegele, like Ovechkin after punching Andrei Svechnikov on Monday, was concerned about Oshie.
“I was trying to lift the stick and then trying to give him a little nudge,” Foegle said.
“A little unfortunate play there. Wasn’t trying to hurt him or anything. Hope he’s OK.”
After Oshie went directly to the dressing room hunched over as he left the ice, Carolina had one more big penalty kill left.
But it didn’t have to deal with Oshie, one of Washington’s best players on the power play.
Several clears and a huge Mrazek save at the end of the kill took care of it.
“I just tried to be big there,” said Mrazek, who stopped 31 shots and fed off the loud crowd.
“We all heard what was happening before in the playoffs, so we were expecting a big crowd.”
Next man up
The Canes were already down two forwards playing without Svechnikov and Micheal Ferland.
Then, Jordan Martinook went down with a right leg injury.
He tried to his best to play on one good leg but did not return after the first period.
The battle of attrition continues Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Washington with the pivotal Game 5.
Oshie doesn’t figure to play, and it’s possible that Svechnikov, who skated Thursday morning, could be back.
Whoever shows up, it promises to be physical and entertaining.
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