It can be easy to overreact in the moment, but I really think even with time to let it settle that Monday’s dominant 5-0 win over the Washington Capitals will go down in Canes history as one of many great playoff wins.

As I said on Twitter shortly after the game ended:

The anticipation and build up after a full decade without playoff hockey in itself makes Monday’s win special. Pair that with the manner that the Canes dominated the game that led to a raucous atmosphere throughout, and I think next time we are debating great playoff games in playoff history that this game will hold its own and stand the test of time.


Game recap

Few probably remember it now, but the game started fairly evenly. The game was physical and a bit chippy from the outset, and both teams had a couple chances early. The Hurricanes took their first lead of the series and avoided digging a big hole early for the third consecutive game when Warren Foegele won a literal battle for position at the top of the crease and scored an ugly goal that the Hurricanes so desperately needed. Just over a minute later, Andrei Svechnikov and Alexander Ovechkin got into it for the second consecutive game resulting in the pair dropping the gloves. Ovechkin seemed to get Svechnikov off balance a bit and then dropped him with three powerful punches. Svechnikov was down for awhile and looked lost as the training staff toted him off the ice.

Not sure if that lit a fire under the Canes or maybe just put a jolt into the game, but the the game pivoted firmly in the Canes direction from that point forward. The Canes out-shot the Capitals 7 to 2 for the remainder of the first period, then 18 to 1 in the second period and then 10-1 up to the point where McGinn scored to make it 5-0 and more or less close out the game. Totaled up, the Hurricanes out-shot the Capitals by a 35 to 4 margin. The second period looked very much like the preseason when the Hurricanes completely overwhelmed teams such that it looked like NHL teams play high school teams. The Hurricanes would not score again in the first period, but momentum had clearly swung in their favor.

As I started to say above, the second period was a master class in how to control a game by hounding the puck and smothering an opponent with the forecheck. The Hurricanes were utterly dominant, and it was not just in stretches. It was the entire period pretty much each and every shift. After six minutes of dominant play with no just reward, the Hurricanes finally got what they deserved when a nice passing play saw Sebastian Aho shovel the puck across the top of the crease to Foegele who again found a way to get the puck past Holtby. When Dougie Hamilton scored on a power play blast through a screen by guess who, Warren Foegele, the Hurricanes had climbed out to a nice 3-0 lead. This time of year, the goals and scoreboard trump all else, but the story of the second period was still the Hurricanes tenacity. The lunch pailers had the game of all games and in the process completely neutered the Capitals usually strong offense. Foegele grabbed the headlines with his goal scoring, but McGinn, Martinook, Staal and really all ten remaining forwards (Ferland and Svechnikov were out) just completely controlled the game.

Then, the third period just added a layer of fun to go with a dose of chippiness and being careful when the Caps became frustrated. When the game still had the potential to swing back to the Capitals, the Hurricanes killed off two early penalties and then went back to taking the defending Stanley Cup champs out behind the wood shed. Dougie Hamilton would add a second power play marker and Brock McGinn would pick a corner in along off the rush. Over the course of the middle of the game, PNC Arena oscillated between just plain loud and complete pandemonium in terms of volume and also visual with fans waving the souvenir towels that they received at the game. Maybe trying to make a statement and pivot momentum a bit heading into game 4, the Capitals put on a furious rush in the final few minutes trying to at least get on the scoreboard. But neither Petr Mrazek nor the hockey gods were having it. A couple good saves and near misses saw the clock reach 0:00 with a dominant and rousing 5-0 Hurricanes win.


Player and other notes

1) Warren Foegele

I said in my game preview that the Hurricanes really needed a star or two to step up and lead the way to a win. The entirety of of the lineup had a strong game, but the player who was really the difference-maker when the game was being decided was Warren Foegele. As I said on Twitter:

Foegele played a leading role in the first three Hurricanes goals and could easily have had a couple more. He had a breakaway that just missed and also two more whacks from the top of the crease that just skittered wide. By far, Foegele is playing his best hockey under the pressure and brighter lights with a couple huge goals during the regular season stretch run and now the playoffs.


2) The forecheck and puck-hounding

By far and away, the story of the game was the Hurricanes forecheck. Washington really did not even play offense for the entire second period, and the Hurricanes just completely overwhelmed the Capitals for the vast majority of 45 minutes of hockey from the Svechnikov/Ovechkin fight up through McGinn’s goal to build a five-goal lead. The fact that Mrazek posted a shutout and rightfully did not even make the three stars says a lot about how much the Hurricanes dominated play.


3) Dougie Hamilton

Hamilton continues to play some of his best hockey. When the pace and banging pick up, Hamilton looks very comfortable. His skating makes him a natural fit for the faster game, and his size helps in terms of taking hits along the boards to make plays. Throw in not one but two power play markers, and Hamilton had a strong game.


3) Sebastian Aho

Maybe just needing to settle into playoff hockey,  I thought Aho re-found his higher gear. He had a couple plays where he wheeled around the offensive zone like he has done very little of late. And similarly, he did a great job on the penalty using his skating to force the Capitals to regroup multiple times in their own end. He had the assist on Foegele’s second goal, but more significantly he seemed to again have the high-end mobility that makes him so dangerous.


4) Jordan Staal

His rugged style of play is made for the playoffs. He had that on full display on Monday banging bodies and forging forward with the puck.


5) The fight

First and foremost, here is hoping that Andrei Svechnikov is okay and recovers quickly. I think the fight between Svechnikov and Ovechkin has two angles. The first deals with whether it is within the rules, and the second deals with regardless of the rules it is right. Supposedly, Svechnikov initiated the fight. If true, that would seemingly give Ovechkin the right so say yes and also eliminate any case that it was a predatorial move on his part.

But as I said on Twitter shortly after the game ended:

By the letter of the law and NHL rules, Alexander Ovechkin did nothing wrong. But I think this is also a situation where the NHL too regularly lacks player for player respect and decency. If a 13-year old kid from across the street for some crazy reason wants to fight me, it would be wrong of me to accept such a fight. But just maybe if the kid attacked me first, I would have a legitimate right to fight him, and a self defense plea might save me. But let’s be clear, in this case, I might be legally okay for fighting the 13-year old, but in no way would it change the fact that it was a scum bag move.

Back to the problem at hand, sure Svechnikov might have prompted the fight which clears Ovechkin from being the aggressor, and maybe that makes Ovechkin innocent in terms of any laws. But that does not mean he is not a scum bag for what happened. Ovechkin could have just passed. Maybe more appropriately, he could taken the fight and mostly just wrestled Svechnikov to the ground with minimal drama. But regardless, one cannot just claim a free pass on decency because hockey. What happened was a scum bag move by Ovechkin regardless of any other details.


6) Reinforcements for Thursday?

With Svechnikov and Ferland likely out due to injury, the Hurricanes could need to add two players (maybe only one). Saku Maenalanin was the healthy scratch early in the game. Though the Hurricanes have a few AHL forwards who are playing well right now, including Alesk Saarela and Julien Gauthier who could potentially add offense to the lineup. But in game 3, the Hurricanes dominated from having skilled scorers. Rather, Monday’s success was from being fast on the forecheck and also retrieving or defending pucks. My hunch is that the recall who steps into the lineup will be Clark Bishop. Bishop does not bring nearly as much scoring potential, but he is a perfect match for what Brind’Amour wants to do which is attack the puck.


Next up is two days off for Canes fans to allow their voices to recover and then a Thursday game 4 that could see the Hurricanes pull back to even in the series.



Go Canes!




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