If you can put aside the context leading up to the game and some of the details within the game, capturing an OTL point with your #3 goalie in net against a Stanley Cup champion that came in playing well is a decent even if imperfect result.
But context does matter. The fact that the Hurricanes came in with two straight losses and needing a win cannot be ignored. And the fact that the Hurricanes had a 4-1 lead in the middle of the game and let it get away in a hurry does matter. And the fact that the Hurricanes are still stuck at hockey .500 also matters.
Addressing the first point in my game preview, unlike the other two losses this week, the Hurricanes arrived on time to play a strong first period. Jordan Martinook was actually most noticeable to me early on even if he was only Robin to Aho’s Batman. Martinook scored on the first shift when he gloved down a pass and quickly put it behind Braden Holtby to get the Hurricanes off to a good start. Next the Alexander Ovechkin show kicked off when he beat a drifting Scott Darling from his spot right at the left face-off circle. Next Teravainen made a good play when Washington bobbled a puck on the power play. He got it to Aho for a breakaway who went to his patented move making a subtle shift toward his backhand and then exploiting the goalie’s five hole he had opened up. The Hurricanes would be rewarded for their stronger start with a 2-1 lead.
Then in the second period the circus started. Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen would score in rapid fire fashion early in the period on the power play. Suddenly the Hurricanes had what seemed like a commanding 4-1 lead. At that point, the Capitals successfully attempted to open up the game. They started cheating a bit coming out of their own end and flew as many players as they could through the neutral zone when they had the puck. Evgeni Kuznetzov burst in for a chance. Darling saved that and a first Tom Wilson rebound while the Hurricanes in the vicinity (Teravainen and Martinook) mostly just looked on. Wilson ultimately finished on the third shot. Next the Canes caught an unfortunate officiating bad break. The play started relatively harmlessly with Ovechkin holding the puck at a stand still outside of the top of the face-off circle and Dougie Hamilton in position to defend him. Then a Capitals flew by and put a pull football block on Hamilton which moved Hamilton and made a lane for Ovechkin to take a couple strides to tee up and step into another blast from where seemingly half of his goals come from. The Caps would add another goal less than a minute later on a nifty Travis Boyd tip. And with that, the Hurricanes 4-1 lead had evaporated into the night, and the game was set to enter the third period tied at 4-4.
After some back and forth play in the third period, a Capitals power play would see Ovechkin complete his hat trick again blasting away from inside the left face-off circle. At that point, the game seemed to be slipping away from the Hurricanes. But shortly thereafter, Braden Holtby flubbed a clearing attempt off his own net and right to Justin Williams who quickly finished into a half-empty net to tie the game at 5-5. The Hurricanes would play the last 6 plus minutes tentatively but ultimately survive and reach overtime.
The Hurricanes lost the opening face-off and spent much of the front part of overtime in a precarious situation trying to keep Ovechkin from scoring his fourth to end the game. Svechnikov who was part of a coverage break down in the last overtime loss first defended an Ovechkin rush one-on-one and later won possession of the puck when he pick-pocketed a Caps player. Next the Hurricanes had possession of the puck for an extended period of time. The Canes were not able to score but did draw a penalty to earn a power play for the last 1:36 overtime. The Hurricanes worked the puck around really had only a medium grade Faulk shot and an Aho miss to show for it.
The Hurricanes would lose the skills competition 2-1 in six rounds with Kuokkanen, Slavin, Di Giuseppe, Williams and McGinn failing and Hamilton scoring in the middle. Curiously absent in the shootout was Sebastian Aho.
As I said at the outset, picking up one point against the Capitals in the second half of a back-to-back with the #3 goalie in net is not horrid. But the Canes had a chance for and needed more which makes it a disappointing outcome.
Player and other notes
1) Sebastian Aho
He is at his best when his speed is at a higher gear and he is attacking in straight lines with the puck on his stick. He played much of Friday’s game like he was shot out of a cannon. The assist on the Martinook goal at the outset was more fortuitous than skilled, but he used it as a launching pad to be a going concern offensively all night. With the Hurricanes struggling to score at times, the team could desperately use a stretch where Aho is firing on all cylinders and leading the way offensively.
2) The power play — good but with a big missed opportunity
The power mostly did its job in scoring two goals to run the Hurricanes out to a three-goal lead. The power added another on the Williams gift goal for a solid three for six. All in all, the night was a positive based on that alone. That said, the team’s inability to capitalize on a golden opportunity with 1:36 of 4-on-3 power play time in overtime was (at least one of) the difference between one point and two.
3) Jordan Martinook
He faded into the background a bit behind the big nights by the skill players, but I really thought Martinook played a huge role in setting a different tone at the start. He skated like his hair was on fire and engaged the puck whenever possible on each of his early shifts, and I think others followed his lead.
4) Good continuation game from Andrei Svechnikov
He was not as dominant or productive on the score sheet as Thursday, but Friday was still a strong game and good continuation for Svechnikov. What stands out most to me about his recent play is his propensity to try to drive to the net with the puck on his stick. He did that only on rare occasions early in the season, but is looking increasingly comfortable and determined in that power forward role. The 22:33 of ice time that he logged shows Brind’Amour’s growing confidence in his play.
5) Scott Darling
Give him credit for battling and also giving his team a chance in the shootout, but his issues were still on display. His rebound control was suspect throughout the game, and Ovechkin no doubt had a scouting report to shoot high despite Darling’s size expecting him to guess and go down early exposing the top half of the net which is where Ovechkin finished. Pair that with three posts that helped keep the Caps total at five goals, and Darling did nothing to change his standing from being an emergency #3 on the depth chart.
After a ‘meh’ night with the rest of the team on Thursday, I thought Slavin and Pesce were particularly strong on Friday. Slavin in particular was really good defending with his stick and defusing multiple potentially dangerous situations.
7) Overthinking the shootout?
When asked about his choices for the shootout after the game, Brind’Amour talked about how the team did shootout drills regularly and that his choices were based on those results. So choosing shooters based on practice results has merit. That said, I just do not see how you do not give Sebastian Aho a chance to win that game as your best forward and after a four-point night when he played incredibly well.
Next up for the team is another fairly quick turnaround with a 1pm matinee on Sunday at PNC Arena against the Arizona Coyotes.