By Peter Koutroumpis
RALEIGH, N.C. – The Carolina Hurricanes are on a roll.
Yes, it’s the preseason, but winning a third straight game, a 5-1 win over the defending Stanley Cup-champion Washington Capitals at PNC Arena on Friday must be acknowledged.
Led by a goal and two assists from defenseman Jaacob Slavin, along with single markers from Valentin Zykov, Jordan Staal, Jordan Martinook, and Martin Necas, Carolina struck early against a Washington squad that was without notable starters including Alex Ovechin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, among others.
“Just tryin’ to take what I can get out there,” Slavin said in leading the offensive charge.
“I’m obviously getting a bit of PP time which gives you more opportunities. Hopefully that keeps rolling into the season.”
Zykov’s power play marker opened the game’s scoring just 2:19 in, a redirect low in the crease on a feed from Andrei Svechnikov to finish a play initiated by Slavin.
Holding the 1-0 lead through the midpoint of the opening period, Slavin’s chip from the corner bounced off Staal’s right shin pad and past a surprised Braden Holtby and extended the home side’s advantage to two.
Nicklas Backstrom answered back quickly for the Caps, scoring their lone goal with 7:39 remaining in the period.
Killing off the Hurricanes’ second penalty of the game, Foegele intercepted a clearing pass at the Washington blue line and found Martinook all alone in front of Holtby.
As the netminder reached for the puck, a quick backhand-to-forehand dangle allowed the forward to net his first goal of the preseason and put Carolina ahead 3-1.
“That’s kind of my specialty, to score on the kill,” Martinook said.
“Heads up play by Foegs to just get it to the front of the net. I originally wanted to tip it when it was comin’, but then I left it, kicked it to my stick, and had an open net pretty much.”
Presented with another power play, Slavin broke in from the point and roofed a backhander over Caps second keeper, Ilya Samsonov, while crashing the crease, and pushed the Hurricanes lead to three goals with 2:44 remaining.
Necas scored his first goal of the preseason, an empty netter with 37 seconds to go, and finalized the game’s scoring.
Allowing only a goal in his two periods of play, Hurricanes starting netminder Petr Mrazek was impressive in controlling the other nine shots he contended with, while Alex Nedeljkovic finished the game with eight saves to preserve the win.
Carolina outshot Washington 26-18.
“I think we’re just competing hard,” Slavin said.
“I think Roddy instills that in us – right from the beginning of camp he’s instilled that in us. It’s just a compete thing and we’re making sure we’re competing all over the ice.”
Notable performances included those from forwards Foegele, and defenseman Haydn Fleury, both competing for a roster spot.
Foegele tallied two assists with two hits and three takeaways while Fleury logged 14:36 in ice time with three hits, two blocked shots, and two significant full-body play breakups.
“He knows,” Brind’Amour said of Foegele.
“He’s one of those guys we’re looking at and playing like it.”
“I thought he was gapped up really well,” he noted of Fleury.
“As the game went on, he got stronger and that’s the way we want to play. He knows what’s going on out here. We have a lot of great D and he’s fighting for his spot too.”
Carolina finished 2-for-5 on the power play while its penalty kill went a clean 4-for-4.
“We’re gettin’ down to it a little more,” Brind’Amour said.
“I still think there’s a game or two that we can experiment with – maybe line combos or something like that. We’ll see in the next couple of days.”
Now halfway through the preseason and camp, the coach is happy to see production from players competing for jobs.
“The guys we want to see step up were really good,” Brind’Amour said.
“They’re hungry and making a case for themselves; that’s great.”
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport