Recap of Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 loss to the Washington Capitals
After a rousing 6-4 win only six days ago, round two of the Canes versus the Caps over the holidays took place on Friday night at PNC Arena.
The game started well for the Canes. The Canes were the better team out of the gate. The Capitals pushed back. But then ironically after a weak power play, the Carolina Hurricanes took over the first period. Some combination of a familiar fault of not always getting enough traffic to the front of the net and a legitimately hot goalie stymied what was a strong first period for the Hurricanes. The good guys were the better team as the period wore on and posted an 18 to 7 shot advantage but were unable to dent Ilya Samsonov. The period finished with a 0-0 tie.
The second period saw the game reverse course. Richard Panik broke the ice for the Capitals early in the second period on a rush around Jake Gardiner and scored on a weird series of events. Petr Mrazek made the initial save, but as he did so, he drifted wide of the net. The puck then seemed to carom off of both Gardiner and Brett Pesce before rolling across the goal line. Washington would strike again on the power play when John Carlson showed why he is leading NHL defensemen in scoring. With Alexander Ovechkin staked out in his office at the top of the face-off circle on the power play, Carlson leveraged the attention focused on Ovechkin to find a passing lane right to Evgeny Kuznetsov for a back door tap in. In general, the Hurricanes struggles in the second period. After a dominant first period in terms of puck possession, the Hurricanes had puck management issues and played too much of the period defending under duress. The period finished at 2-0 and set the stage for a wild third period.
Down 2-0 and needing a goal to get back into the game, the Hurricanes got exactly that early in the third period when Jordan Staal deftly tipped a Brett Pesce shot to pull the Hurricanes within a goal at 2-1. But then the negative part of the mixed bag of a third period reared its head. Erik Haula took an unnecessary offensive zone penalty, and the Capitals capitalized to regain a two-goal lead. Then the Hurricanes were passive defending off the rush leading to another Capitals goal. Dougie Hamilton was beaten at the defensive blue line. The Hurricanes still had enough players back, but the combination of Andrei Svechnikov sort of generically filling the middle of the ice without identifying passing lanes and Warren Foegele stopping skating at the defensive blue line left Jakub Vrana alone on the back door to put the Capitals up by a commanding 4-1 lead. Rather than being a nail in the coffin, that goal just seemed to trigger a frenetic ending. The Hurricanes pushed pace, opened things up and attacked. Teuvo Teravainen tallied on a Sebastian Aho pass on the power play to get the Canes back to 4-2. And Ryan Dzingel fired a laser just under the bar on a pretty Martin Necas pass on the power play to pull the Hurricanes back to within 4-3 still with more than 12 minutes remaining in the game. At the point, the rally was on. The Hurricanes had multiple good chances including their second (or was it more?) post of the game. But the rally was cut a bit short when Dougie Hamilton took an ill-advised retaliation penalty with a punch to the back of the head of T.J. Oshie after a check he did not like on the end boards. With only 2:43 remaining, that penalty more or less ended the game early. The Hurricanes were not really able to establish offensive zone possession in the waning moments after killing off the penalty.
The third period was a weird mix of good and bad. On the one hand, the Hurricanes pushed back twice even once down 4-1. But the downside was a return of taking too many penalties. Two costly ones in the third period might have been the difference between an almost and a comeback win.
Player and other notes
1) Erik Haula
Aside from the costly penalty in the third period that I noted above, I really liked Haula’s game. He is the one player who consistently goes to the front of the net. The Hurricanes need more of this on many nights. Haula had a deflection in front in the first period that just skittered wide of the net, and he had a deflection in the second period that bounced up and off the cross bar. And in total, he just gets the need to go fight for position at the top of the crease when the puck is in the offensive zone.
2) Weird night for the power play
The Hurricanes looked very good on a first period 4-on-3 and then abysmal on multiple other standard 5-on-4 power plays through two periods. Then just when the writers were penning comments about special teams being a big part of the difference (the Capitals had two power play goals), the Hurricanes scored twice on the power play in the third period to get back into the game.
3) Couple tough penalties in the third period
Twice in the third period the Hurricanes scored to push back into the game. The ill-advised and unnecessary penalties by Erik Haula and Dougie Hamilton short-circuited both rallies.
4) Andrei Svechnikov
A bit under the radar because he did not score a goal, Andrei Svechnikov had a huge game offensively. With the puck on his stick in the offensive zone, he was a step or two faster than whoever was trying to defend him all night. The result was multiple times where he wheeled around the offensive zone assessing and looking for scoring chances. In addition to collecting two assists, he narrowly missed over the top of the net on a grade A chance, got the puck to the front of the net via pass a couple times and had a couple other power forward rushes to carry the puck toward the net.
5) Bigger picture
As far as losses go, Friday’s was more a reminder that the margin for error is small against good teams than a bad effort. The first period was very good. Aside from the couple costly errors, the third period was much more good than bad. And even the second period that was the Canes worst was not horrible.
And stepping outside of the single game, the Hurricanes are off to a respectable 2-1 record for the seven-game road trip. Ideal would be to repeat that and then take on a win in the home stand finale to reach 5-2 which would easily be a positive.
Next up for the Hurricanes is game 4 of the home stand on Tuesday against the Philadelphia Flyers.