As much fun as it would have been to beat the Capitals at home heading into the 4-day layoff, it is hard to be to upset with Monday’s game despite the result. The Capitals are as good as any team in the NHL right now and are mostly rolling over whoever is standing in front of them on a given night. The Caps did not roll over the Canes, but rather barely survived.
What stood out to me on Monday night and tends to be a recurring theme with good teams is that Washington capitalized when given the chance. The Caps also had that uncanny knack for not giving up much even when they were losing.
The Canes were the better team out of the gate and throughout much of the first period, but Grubauer was solid in net for the Caps and the Canes were unable to capitalize on having a territorial and possession advantage. The good guys ultimately exited the first period down 1-0 despite deserving better. When the Caps scored again to go up 2-0 in the second period, it felt like the Caps would find a higher gear and win going away. But that was not the case, the Canes killed an early penalty in the third period, got to within 1 goal on a pretty Kris Versteeg finish and generally won the third period. The Canes had some chances and near misses to pull even at 2-2 but just could not pull even and ultimately fell 2-1 despite a tremendous push by the Canes in the third period.
A few player and other notes:
I thought this line was good especially early and was a key to getting the Canes into the game in a good way despite not scoring first.
This trio was the best line on the ice in the third period and did everything except tie it up in the third period. Versteeg had a pretty finish and the group had a bunch of possession in the offensive zone and multiple good chances after that. Versteeg has been quiet of late, so hopefully this is the start of a resurgence. Elias Lindholm and Eric Staal had 5 shot attempts each to go with 10 for Kris Versteeg to make 20 for the line on the night. The Hurricanes are a better team when Versteeg is flying around like Monday night and that line is clicking.
The Canes started with Liles/Faulk, Slavin/Hainsey and Hanifin/Pesce on the blue line but fairly quickly reverted back to the most common pairs of Hainsey/Faulk, Liles/Pesce and Hanifin/Slavin. It was a really small sample size, but Slavin looks better so far playing on the right side that is his off side but more familiar to him.
I thought he had an especially good game despite not getting on the score sheet. In 19 minutes of ice time in a game with a ton of pace and a strong opponent, he played a pretty clean game and stayed out of trouble.
Despite the loss, this was not the negative variety that we have seen some of this season. The Canes played a decent game overall and did everything except score late.
Here is hoping that they can bring the same intensity for the next game on Saturday versus New Jersey.