Tracking the Storm: Analysis
-- The Carolina Hurricanes threw just about everything they could at Philipp Grubauer, but the Washington Capitals came out on top in the third meeting between the two division rivals this season, 4-2. Jordan Staal and Riley Nash found the back of the net for the Canes, but Grubauer’s 39 saves plus the Capital’s three power-play goals were the difference. “I thought we played a pretty solid game. We had a lot of chances, but we couldn’t just get the one we needed at the right time,” forward Jeff Skinner said. “He (Grubauer) made big saves for them. We just couldn’t put one by him at the right time, especially down the stretch we had some real good looks.”
-- Grubauer’s body of work was arguably most impressive in the first and third periods. The Canes had a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes, but it easily could have been three times that with quality scoring opportunities from Skinner on a breakaway and Staal with a partial break, among others. Down the stretch, a shot from Alexander Semin beat Grubauer but slid just wide of the net, coming inches from a tied game. “He made big saves,” head coach Kirk Muller said. “We had quality opportunities – breakaways, shots in close. We had enough chances to score, but he did the job.”
-- Five-on-five, the Canes put forth one of their strongest efforts this season. They outshot the Caps 27-17 in five-on-five play and 41-29 overall. “Our guys right from that road trip on have been playing hockey like this,” Muller said. “I thought we sustained a lot of pressure. We moved the puck well, we got great scoring opportunities, we played well defensively and we didn’t give up much. Overall, 5-on-5, I’ve got to be pretty pleased with the overall effort of our hockey club.”
-- More times than not, that kind of even-strength effort would result in two points for the Canes. Instead, tonight they only managed one five-on-five goal, a blocker-side finish from Staal after a beauty of a one-touch pass from Alexander Semin. “We had the chances that could have made a big difference right there,” Muller said. “When you’re generating that much and playing well defensively, we’ve got the guys and personnel, the goals will come. It just didn’t happen tonight.”
-- Special teams, then, was the difference tonight. All three of the Caps goals were scored on the power play (3-for-4); on the other side of the spectrum, the Canes were 1-for-5 on the man advantage. “Five-on-five, we were all over them,” Staal said. “We were the better team five-on-five, but three power-play goals, you can’t let that happen. That’s not good enough, and that’s how you lose games.”
-- Muller on special teams: “They have a potent power play, and obviously it was a big difference tonight,” Muller said. “They made us pay for it. We had opportunities too. We just fell short.”
-- Muller said he was acting on a gut feeling this morning in deciding to put Cam Ward in net. Ward made 25 saves on 28 shots. At the end of the day, it’s tough to hang three power-play goals on the goaltender alone. “He battled through it. At the end of the day, we didn’t win the hockey game,” Muller said. “But, five-on-five, he made some big saves. The power play was really the difference tonight.”
-- Some random tidbits: The Canes’ lone PP tally came off the stick of Nash, his first-career power-play goal. It was a simple play, as Andrej Sekera sent a puck toward the net, and Nash was there to clean up the rebound. … Sekera led the Canes with 26:19 of ice time, his second-highest total of the season. He logged 6:36 on the power play and 3:20 shorthanded. Muller called him the team’s MVP this morning. … That was the Canes’ first regulation loss this season when scoring first; they were 7-0-2 coming into tonight when notching the opening goal. … The Canes are now 1-3 in their black third uniforms this season, the lone victory coming Nov. 7 against the Islanders.
-- Tonight’s loss widens the gap between the Capitals, who sit in second place in the Metropolitan Division with 41 points, and the Canes, who are just outside of the playoff picture with 35 points. Carolina is back in action on Saturday in Tampa Bay. “Our guys have been really resilient,” Muller said. “You’re not always going to get the outcome you want, but we’ve been battling like this for a while, picking up points here and there. Over time, if you keep playing like that, the results are generally in your favor. We’re playing good hockey. We just have to find ways to pick up points.”
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Alex Ovechkin scored his 400th career goal into an empty net to seal the Washington Capitals' 4-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena on Friday.
The Capitals' second-ranked power play struck for three goals in the second period. Marcus Johansson, John Carlson and Troy Brouwer scored with the man advantage.
Ovechkin became the 89th player in NHL history to score 400 goals when he put the puck into the empty net with 24.5 seconds remaining.
Capitals rookie goaltender Philipp Grubauer made 39 saves, improving his record to 4-0-1. He made several stops when Washington held off a Hurricanes power play that began with 4:50 left in the third to preserve the win.
Trailing 1-0 heading into the second period, Washington's power play went to work. With Eric Staal's high-sticking penalty carrying over from the first period, Johansson pounded home the rebound of Nicklas Backstrom's shot 41 seconds into the period.
Carlson made it 2-1 with another power-play goal at 8:34, blasting a knuckling shot from the middle point.
Washington claimed the lead again on its third straight power-play goal. Mike Green broke his stick on a shot from inside the blue line, and Brouwer got a piece of it on the way through the slot to deflect it past Carolina goalie Cam Ward at 14:11.
Backstrom assisted on all three goals, lifting him into a tie for the NHL lead with 32. He leads the League in power-play assists with 21. He has two goals and 13 points on his current five-game point streak.
After generating a half-dozen quality scoring chances in the first period, Jordan Staal scored his eighth of the season with 3:28 remaining to start the scoring. Staal took Alexander Semin's touch pass from the neutral zone and skated into the right circle before beating Grubauer over the blocker.
Grubauer had to be sharp throughout the first 20 minutes. He fended off Jeff Skinner on a breakaway early in the period, then stopped Jordan Staal 13 seconds later on a forehand from the slot. The Hurricanes outshot the Capitals 13-10 in the first and 41-29 for the game.