That was the case again for Carolina in a 4-3 overtime victory in a game filled with late emotion and several twists and turns that resulted in a rebound win over the Washington Capitals – the best team in the NHL.
It appeared Chad LaRose’s 100th career point – a nifty backhanded breakaway goal with 1:35 left -- would hand the Caps their first loss in regulation when leading after two periods as former Cane Joe Corvo netted two goals.
But Washington was able to score with 9.5 seconds left to send the contest into OT, where Tomas Fleischmann could have easily won it but Justin Peters slid over to cover the post and the Capital’ center shot it wide.
That was the second life needed for the Canes to secure their 29th victory of the season as Whitney was left all alone in the slot less than a minute later, giving him time to wind up on Semyon Varlamov, who got a piece of the shot but the rubber slowly trickled over the goal line with 57.3 seconds left in OT.
“Going to the middle of the ice I was just going to throw the puck to Eric (Staal) right away, and they must have had the same feeling because both of their guys went with him,” said Whitney, who scored his fifth game winner of the season to tie Jussi Jokinen for the team lead. “When you are that close, it’s not an easy play for a goalie. He got a piece of it but it was just enough.”
While Washington played without NHL scoring leader Ovechkin, serving the second game of a two-game suspension for his hit on Brian Campbell of Chicago, the Canes took the ice without Tim Gleason, whose broken right foot could land him on the shelf for the rest of the season. In addition, defenseman Alexandre Picard was lost after two periods with a hand injury.
“We’ve been fortunate that (Jamie) McBain has come in and played as well as he has because he moves the puck very, very well and it looks like he’s got a great head on the power play,” coach Paul Maurice said. “Him contributing has been critical.”
Twice in the first period shots from McBain were deflected off posts, once by Staal midway through the period and then four minutes later by Tom Kostopoulos. However, the Canes couldn’t crack Varlamov in the opening 20 minutes.
The Caps had a goal waved off with 1:43 left in the period when Mike Knuble batted the puck into the net with a high stick, and another one early in the second when Matt Bradley’s tip in was disallowed because of a penalty for too many men on the ice.
The Canes would take a two-man advantage 18 seconds later on a four-minute high sticking call and Staal scored on the 5-on-3 power play to tie the score at 1-1.
However, Carolina took three penalties over the final nine minutes of the second and ended up paying for it against the NHL’s best power play unit as Corvo netted his second of the game with 11.5 seconds remaining in the period.
In an ironic twist, Corvo’s goals were his first since Nov. 30 against Washington.
“No, they’re not shopping at the Big and Tall, that’s for sure,” Maurice said.
It was also a nice recovery game for rookie goalie Justin Peters, who stopped 25 of 28 shots after losing 4-0 to Phoenix over the weekend.
“It was a challenge, even without Ovechkin,” Maurice said of Peters. “Take his goals out and I think they’re probably still leading the league in goal scoring. They are a powerful team that has a lot of offense and he saw some shots that were a lot harder than other teams. It was a big step for him.”
NOTES: Jokinen’s two assists gave him a career-best 56 points, surpassing his total of 55 in his rookie season with Dallas in 2005-06. … Staal’s power-play goal moved him into sole possession of second place on the franchise’s all-time list with 72. He’s still 60 behind leader Ron Francis. … Tuomo Ruutu had five of his six hits in the first period. … The Canes remained one of just two teams in the NHL (Detroit is the other) not to have allowed a short-handed goal at home. … McBain has two assists in two NHL games. … Carolina won for just the second time this season when trailing after two periods.