RALEIGH, N.C. – Both the Carolina Hurricanes and the Washington Capitals were on a collision track – a last-team standing sort of match-up – that determined which side would continue on its winning path.
Meeting for the second time this season, since Nov. 12 when Carolina claimed a 5-1 victory over their Metro Division foe at home, the Caps upended the Hurricanes and claimed a 4-3 shootout decision at PNC Arena on Friday.
Jeff Skinner, Justin Faulk, and Tuevo Teravainen scored for Carolina during regulation, but no one could beat Capitals netminder Philipp Grubauer during overtime or in the shootout.
“The lead changed hands three times – a good game, a real good game. Two good teams,” Carolina head coach Bill Peters said.
“I thought it was outstanding. Up and down, a lot of action, lots of Grade-A’s I thought both ways. I thought D were active. I thought it was a good game.”
The loss ended Carolina’s seven-game home win streak and an undefeated run by goaltender Cam Ward who went 5-0 through that stretch with a 1.29 goals-against average and .954 save percentage.
Against the Caps, Ward stopped 19-of-22 shots during regulation and all four he faced in overtime, but didn’t seem to have enough left to stop a shot during the shootout.
When asked, Peters didn’t have an answer for his goalie’s struggles in the ‘skills competition’.
“I’m not sure of that; I’m not sure,” he said.
Ward didn’t get any support at the other end during the shootout as Sebastian Aho and Jaccob Slavin couldn’t score on Grubauer while both T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov beat Ward in close and high to the glove side.
Alex Ovechkin, former Hurricanes forward Justin Williams, and Oshie tallied Washington’s goals in regulation that helped Grubauer earn the win.
The Hurricanes’ top-ranked penalty kill couldn’t deny all opportunities it faced as the Caps finished 1-of-2 on the power play.
Carolina had ample power play opportunities, six of them, but managed to connect on only one.
Skinner opened the game’s scoring early in the first, cleaning up his own rebound in Grubauer’s crease with Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen hanging all over him.
It was an easy layup after Derek Ryan fed him the pass on a play originated by Victor Rask that put Carolina ahead 1-0 at the 5:46 mark.
It was a game that featured a variety of skating agility and puck dangling from both teams and kept both defenses and netminders moving.
Kuznetzov maneuvered around and through Ron Hainsey’s skates before making a pass attempt through Ward’s crease that found no recipient on the other end.
Throughout the first, it was Ryan and Skinner who continued to pose the biggest scoring threat from Carolina.
A shot off the crossbar with seven minutes remaining denied the duo’s second scoring finish.
At the other end, Ward made his stops as the Caps tried to move him and his defenders from side to side.
While both teams had man-advantage opportunities, both penalty kills denied them.
The Hurricanes held their one-goal advantage after outshooting the Caps 9-5 during the period.
Continuing with the momentum and pace it started the game with, Carolina pressed to increase its lead in the second.
However, a turnover by Viktor Stalberg at the Caps blue line on the penalty kill earned the visitors their 13th power play goal in 14 games.
The puck moved from John Carlson’s stick to Nicklas Backstrom’s blade and then with a drop pass to Alex Ovechkin that resulted in a snipe that beat Ward under the cross bar and tied the score 1-1 with 13:27 to play.
Skinner soon drew successive penalties to Niskanen and Matt Schmidt for interference and hooking transgressions that gave Carolina a 5-on-3 power play.
Skinner continued to take abuse during the sequence with slashes and hooks throughout, but he, nor anyone else could cash in on the opportunity.
Getting trapped in and around their net, the Hurricanes then fell behind after Williams one-timed a pass from Kuznetsov into the open short side past Ward.
Trailing 2-1, Faulk then netted a quick snap shot on a 2-on-1 feed from Aho with 6:29 remaining in the period.
The Capitals kept up their pressure in attempting to take the lead once more.
A spectacular stickhandling display by Ovechkin allowed him to dance around Jaccob Slavin, but when he followed that up with a deke attempt to beat Ward low to his glove side, he was denied.
Both teams maintained their 2-2 deadlock, and carried it into the third.
It only took Carolina 40 seconds to take the lead on a power play goal from Teravainen as Backstrom was called for holding eight seconds earlier.
Getting the puck in the high slot, Aho released a low wrist shot along the ice that Teravainen redirected through Grubauer’s pads that ignited the 11,892 in attendance as many continued to return to their seats from the intermission.
Faceoff dominance continued to work to Carolina’s favor as it maintained puck possession in the Washington zone heading into the final 10 minutes of regulation play.
Grubauer was tested repeatedly as the line of Jordan Staal, Elias Lindholm, and Joakim Nordstrom cycled the puck in the corners, around the net, and back to the tandem of Slavin and Brett Pesce who worked the blue line.
Though they didn’t score during that sequence, the Hurricanes continued to frustrate the Caps as they passed and moved the puck quickly and efficiently.
“I thought both teams had a lot of good chances” Peters pointed out.
“It wasn’t for a lack of chances for us.”
The Caps didn’t relent either however, and forced the issue upon Carolina soon after.
Their efforts paid off when Oshie tied it up once again, 3-3, with 6:04 to play.
Both teams eventually earned a point as they remained tied through the end of regulation time.
During the first three minutes of overtime, Washington had ample opportunities to win it, but four stops by Ward – two chest pad stops, one stick save, and a sprawling pad save – kept the game alive for Carolina.
Skinner had the Hurricanes’ best chance to score, but his backhand was snagged by Grubauer with 42 seconds left.
The Caps then claimed the win during the shootout.
“We didn’t give them too much and we didn’t sit back,” Staal said.
“I thought we created lots of chances – we hit a few posts in the third as well. We were still movin’ our feet, creatin’ plays. They had a solid goal in the third and the rest was what it is.”
“We keep doing good things like that, sooner or later, those will go in for us,” Skinner added.
“We’ve got another chance tomorrow to come back, do it again, and try and get the win next time.”