After an entertaining and fun even if imperfect season-opening win at PNC Arena on Thursday, the Hurricanes stirred a bunch of fun memories for game 2 with a trip to Washington, D.C. The game was appropriately billed as a rivalry game, no doubt carried some ill will and was the Capitals home opener to boot. In short, high drama for an early October tilt.
The game lived up to expectations in terms of entertainment value and added another dose of Canes fan fun at the expense of surely annoyed Caps fans. But in terms of the event itself, I was actually a bit surprised at the modest level of physicality and animosity in the game. T.J. Oshie ran McGinn in front of the net with no puck in sight. Wilson of course finished his checks. But there were no actual fights, and I actually thought the level of intensity, physicality and nastiness was pretty modest.
As for the game, the Hurricanes had the upper hand from the early going, but Braden Holtby held the fort. In the early going, Martin Necas and Sebastian Aho were both stoned on breakaway chances and Joel Edmundson clanged the post from between the circles. Along the way, the Hurricanes mounted an early shot and territorial play advantage but received nothing to show for it on the scoreboard. Washington’s top players were fairly quiet throughout the first period, but Washington struck first late in the first period when Joel Edmundson missed Erik Haula with a short pass in his own end. When the puck found Garnet Hathaway’s stick, he took a quick stride and fired through James Reimer from close range to post the Capitals to an undeserved 1-0 lead which is how the first period would end.
Early in the second period, the Hurricanes dialed up the pressure and seemed ready to dominate a game against a Caps team that had played and traveled the night before. But just when the Hurricanes seemed ready to pour it on and break through, the team instead went on a penalty binge. Including a carry over from the first period, the Canes had to and did kill off four penalties in the second period. The Canes penalty kill deserves a huge amount of credit for keeping the team in the game, but at the same time, the run of shorthanded play relieved pressure for the Capitals. When T.J. Oshie scored just past the midway point of the second period, the Capitals were in the driver’s seat despite maybe not having their best effort. A couple more Canes penalties pushed the game to the third period with the Caps up 2-0.
But similar to Thursday’s game, the Hurricanes just kept pushing. When Erik Haula scored his second goal of the season on the power play only 2:36 into the third period, the Canes were back in it. The play was reminiscent of a pretty passing play from Teravainen to the back door just like on Thursday except this time Haula found the back of the net. The Canes tied the game on another pretty play when Jaccob Slavin fed the puck forward to Warren Foegele and then blew by everyone to fill the center lane. The play finished with an incredibly skilled score when Slavin received the puck to his hand, put it down and quickly finished at something close to full speed. And just like that, the Hurricanes were back in the game. The remainder of the third period featured some frenetic play with both goalies being required to make big saves to hold at 2-2.
At the point when the Hurricanes pushed to overtime and claimed a point in the standings, the game was a road success. And when the Capitals gained an overtime power play, it looked like that would be all the Hurricanes would get. But more penalty kill and James Reimer heroics somehow kept the puck out of the net for seven shots before the Hurricanes received the one shot they needed. After another round of Capitals attacking, Jake Gardiner found the puck on his stick on a 2-on-1 with room to operate. Just at the moment where he had to decide on pass or shoot, Gardiner sniped the Hurricanes first shot of overtime around Holtby and into the net.
The win pushes the Hurricanes off to a great 2-0 start heading into the weekend finale against Tampa Bay at PNC Arena on Sunday night.
Notes from the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 overtime win over the Washington Capitals
1) James Reimer
I actually did not think Reimer was great through about two-thirds of the game. The cause of the first goal was a defensive zone turnover, but instead of forcing the shooter to pick a corner to beat him, he was a tiny bit slow reacting under duress and had the puck go through him and into the net. The second goal saw him make a save but have no control of the rebound or idea where the puck was which made it possible for Oshie to bat it into the net before Reimer could find it. And he also had another puck beat him far side from a bad angle but luckily be waived off because he was bumped.
Reimer was not bad through the first half of the game, but he was not great either. And the story of the game was Holtby’s play at the other end of the rink.
But when the team desperately needed to hold the fort to stay in the game, Reimer did exactly that. He was perfect on the penalty kill and played his best hockey in the second half of the game when the Hurricanes were battling back. Along the way, he had a couple saves on point blank and breakaway saves. He made two crazy contortionist type saves. And he somehow survived the crazy power play flurry in overtime. When all was said and done, Reimer rose from being okay-ish to very clearly being a key component in a comeback win.
2) The penalty kill
Along with James Reimer, the penalty kill deserves a ton of credit for holding this game at 2-0 long enough for the Canes to strike and climb into the game. That combined with the crazy overtime kill puts the penalty kill in the mix for the first star in the comeback win.
3) Brett Pesce
Jaccob Slavin and Jake Gardiner will deservedly grab headlines for their skilled game-tying and game-winning goals, but I thought Brett Pesce quietly as always played a notch above his usual high level. Early in the game, the Caps seemed to want Ovechkin out against Edmundson/Pesce. Pesce stymied him repeatedly by stepping up, challenging and mostly disarming any attacks. Pesce, along with all of the penalty killers, deserve credit for keeping the game in reach in the second period against a dangerous Capitals power play.
4) Blue line scoring
Through two games, the blue line has featured prominently in four of the five Hurricanes goals. Slavin and Gardiner scored on Saturday. Necas’ and Haula’s goals on Tuesday came off of rebounds on Hamilton shot, and Wallin’s came on a tip and then rebound on a Pesce shot. At least early on, the blue line has proven to be an offensive catalyst which is encouraging.
5) Erik Haula
What stands out about Haula’s early productivity is its simple formula. Haula, especially on the power play, spends a ton of time within a step of the crease which is obviously a good place to be for goal scoring. In addition to just being where goals happen, Haula seems to have good hands and a knack for positioning and timing.
6) Teuvo Teravainen
As the forward equivalent of Brett Pesce as a quiet but significant contributor, Teravainen mustered a couple more heady passes for great scoring chances including the pass that led to Haula’s back door tip goal.
7) Points matter!
The Hurricanes now have four out of four possible points. After a long history of digging holes in October and only once climbing out of it, the Canes community knows as well as anyone that October points are just as important as February and March points. So far so good.
Next up is a quick turnaround for a 5pm match up on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Lightning at PNC Arena.
2) The penalty kill