In round 3 in about two weeks time, the Hurricanes fell victim to old bad habits early and seemingly were limited in their ability to recover by just being out of gas.
The Hurricanes took four penalties in the first period with at least three being the avoidable variety. Washington scored once but maybe equally significantly, the first period was disjointed for the Hurricanes and saw them on their heels for much of it. A pair of Alexander Ovechkin goals, one on the power play and one at even strength, staked the Capitals to an early lead that held up heading into the first intermission.
The Hurricanes had the upper hand for at least the first 15 minutes of the second period but converted that to very little in terms of scoring chances. Svechnikov almost had a breakaway, and Aho whiffed on a pass to him in the slot. But in terms of actual shots through 15 minutes including three power plays, the list of best chances included only five shots from out including three from Hamilton, one from Aho and one from Gardiner. None were really screen, and none were really dangerous. Despite not even registering a shot through more than ten minutes of the period, what the Capitals did well was defend between the face-off dots. Per my first watch point in the game preview, after clearly being out of gas in the second half of Saturday’s win over Los Angeles, I think that likely also played a role in the Hurricanes inability to generate much for chances even when having the upper hand. The second period finished with the Hurricanes still trailing 2-0.
The third period mostly served to validate the fear that the Canes just do not have it physically right now. Needing to goals and in a situation to push forward, the Hurricanes collected only five shots on net and never really challenged. The penalty issues reared their head again and ironically a couple of the Canes more dangerous chances came shorthanded.
Two things jump out at me exiting this game:
1) With four games to go before the extended break, the Hurricanes need to somehow either find a second wind or steal a game or two to keep the modest gap they have built over the playoff cut line.
2) After running and gunning with the Canes a bit in the 6-4 loss in the first of the three games, Washington maybe swallowed their pride a bit and shifted to trying to play a station to station game up the ice and making offense come from play inside of the offensive zone rather than from transition attacks. That style of play seemed to favor Washington which will be something to watch if the teams see each other in the playoffs.
Player and other notes
1) Out of gas
Same as the first point in my preview, the Hurricanes looked tired as this game wore on.
2) Relapse in penalty problems
After being somewhat better in terms of taking needless penalties, the Hurricanes had a relapse on Monday taking four penalties in the first period. Andrei Svechnikov had an unnecessary stick infraction in the neutral zone. Dougie Hamilton to a delay of game penalty with Tom Wilson in the neighborhood but not on him yet. Warren Foegele also took a stick infraction penalty. The Capitals scored only once, but I think the volume of time the Canes spent killing penalties in the first period kept them from finding any rhythm and possibly sapped energy as well. Similarly, the Hurricanes seemed to sink before even getting started in the third period after taking a couple more avoidable penalties.
3) Bigger picture
After three straight wins at home, this loss on the road to a very good hockey team is not a big deal. My concern coming out of the game is that the Hurricanes are a a bit worn out. With four games to go before the extended break, the team needs to find a higher gear and/or just steal a few wins in the final four games.
4) Petr Mrazek
On a positive note, I liked Mrazek’s compete. He might want the one of Ovechkin’s goals, but being beaten by an Ovechkin shot from the top of the face-off circle is hardly is hardly a lonely club. And he made some good saves and held the fort in the third period to try to give the Canes a chance.
5) Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin
On another positive note, Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin have a tendency to be incredibly steady even on down nights for the team. That can be especially difficult on nights when the team does spend more time defending.
Next up for the Hurricanes is two-day break that hopefully helps, but that is quickly followed by a back-to-back with travel that leads in three games in four nights.