The Washington Capitals bested Carolina for the fourth time this season on Sunday night, this time by a 3-2 score. It marked the third Washington victory at the RBC Center since Oct. 27 and the first time the Hurricanes did not record a home win over the Capitals since the 1997-98 season.
Where the game turned unusual was near the end of the first period, when Hurricanes defenseman Tim Gleason, with his team down 1-0, received a five-minute major for charging and a game misconduct penalty for a hit on Washington goal scorer Mathieu Perreault. The hit left Perreault bloodied and immobile on the ice, although it appeared that the bulk of the damage was done when the Capitals player’s stick snapped in half and struck him in the face.
“I didn’t care for it. It wasn’t a good call,” said Hurricanes’ coach Paul Maurice. “I think originally the referees felt that it was Tim’s stick and didn’t realize that it was his own stick that he had hit himself with and Timmy had never left his feet. Tim had never taken a stride. He went from the faceoff dot to the hash mark without taking a stride.”
Unlike Erik Cole’s five-minute boarding major for from the team’s previous game against Montreal during which the opposition scored twice on the lengthy power play, the Canes held Washington off the score sheet for a three-minute man advantage that was cut short by Matt Hendricks’ roughing penalty. However, Gleason’s ejection would loom throughout the night.
“You lose your number one defending defenseman for the rest of the game, and that really hurt us the most,” said Maurice. “I thought that’s the way the game turned.”
According to Washington coach Bruce Boudreau, Perreault suffered a broken nose and is listed as day-to-day. He did not return to the game.
Carolina killed Gleason’s penalty early in the second period, with Brooks Laich coming the closest to scoring on a hit post. The Canes would actually tie the game a few minutes later, with Jussi Jokinen ending an 11-game goal drought with his sixth goal of the season.
“We had a big penalty kill to kill it off and what could have been a negative turned into a positive,” said defenseman Jay Harrison. “It’s unfortunate with the call because we could have used (Gleason) for the rest of the night, but for the most part I think we rallied well around it.”
Although the Canes seemed to have the momentum at that point, Washington’s David Steckel and Alex Ovechkin struck in the latter half of the second period to give the visitors a two-goal lead. Steckel’s tally was the result of a turnover at the Carolina blue line, while Ovechkin’s goal came on a fortuitous bounce as Mike Green’s point shot hit Carolina defenseman Joe Corvo and fell right into the goal-scorer’s path.
The Canes got what could have been an important goal just 30 seconds in to the final frame when Tuomo Ruutu tipped in a Harrison slap shot for his 100th NHL goal, but the equalizer never came despite some good offensive pressure. Carolina finished with 35 shots on Capitals’ goalie Semyon Varlamov, not including three hit posts.
“I thought we had enough chances to at least tie it or win this game,” said Ruutu. “They had more goals and they deserved to win.”
A big culprit in the Canes’ inability to come back was the power play, which got back-to-back opportunities not long after Ruutu’s goal but mustered just one total shot on Varlamov.
“Pucks to the net. That’s a real challenge for us,” said Maurice. “They were very aggressive with us. We were real slow and we have a real difficult time getting it to the net, and when we did they blocked them.”
The loss was the Hurricanes’ season-long third in a row, which comes on the heels of a season-long four-game winning streak. The end result has Carolina back at the .500 mark with a record of 15-15-4.
“It’s a little frustrating, but I think it can only be as frustrating as the time you dwell on it,” said Harrison. “It is a couple of losses in a row, but some of the efforts have been really good and could have gone the other way had we got a bounce here or there. I think we have to build on that.”
The Hurricanes now leave on a two-game road trip through Toronto and Ottawa that features games on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
NOTES: Joni Pitkanen ate the majority of Gleason’s ice time, finishing with a season-high 33:20 … Steckel, who leads the league in faceoff percentage, won 11 of his 16 draws ... Oveckin recorded a game-high eight shots … Jeff Skinner played an entire game at the center position for the first time in his career. He had one assists, with linemates Jokinen and Ruutu each recording a goal and an assist …Jokinen’s goal was his 100th point with Carolina