Tracking the Storm: Analysis
-- Reality smacked the Carolina Hurricanes square in the face on Thursday, as the team faced its first game after being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. It also happened to be the team’s home finale, but the visiting Washington Capitals got the better of the two divisional foes with a 5-2 win. “It wasn’t a good game overall. To me, it looked like two teams that pretty much, in the last few days, were mathematically out of the playoffs,” head coach Kirk Muller said. “IIt looked like a sloppy game, and I don’t think it was a good hockey game by either team. But for our last game at home, we were hoping for more.”
-- Eric Staal, simply, on the team’s effort: “It wasn’t good enough, clearly. We had breakdowns, and it ended up in our net. It just wasn’t good enough. There’s not much else to say. We need to be better.”
-- The deck seemed stacked against the Canes from puck drop. With both teams out of the playoff race, the Caps simply had the edge in this exhibition-style match that featured little physicality. The line of Joel Ward, Jason Chimera and Eric Fehr gave the Canes fits, as they factored in on three of the Capitals’ five tallies. “This game is built on energy, emotion and tempo. If you lose that, you’re just going out and playing the game,” Muller said. “For the most part, I think in the games this year, our guys pushed. I don’t think there was any quit in them, but you could see tonight … the fact of not going to the playoffs, we didn’t have the energy that you need to win a hockey game.”
-- Jordan Staal on the Ward, Chimera and Fehr trio: “They’re a quick-skating line. They moved the puck well tonight. It was our jump and our legs that gave them that room. Any player in the NHL, if you give them that much time, they’re going to make plays. It was mostly on us.”
-- Timing-wise, Muller said the Canes’ home finale couldn’t have come at a worse time, as they attempted to rally emotionally after the stinging finality of elimination from postseason contention. “You’d like to finish on a strong note with the last game [at home]. … Timing-wise, you know there’s going to be a let down on teams because that’s what we’re after - to keep playing,” Muller said. “Let’s be honest. It overall just looked like a team that didn’t have the energy mentally to play tonight.”
-- E. Staal on the home finale: “I feel bad for the fans that were here watching. They came out to support us. We appreciate the ones who stayed and were there at the end clapping because I know it wasn’t easy. It hasn’t been easy for me personally over the last five years. We have to respond and be better tomorrow.”
-- Special teams-wise, the Canes have been consistently productive shorthanded, as they tallied their 11th shorthanded goal of the season, ranking second in the NHL only behind Calgary (12). Jiri Tlusty had the marker, his 15th of the season, as he finished off a nice pass from Jordan Staal. Radek Dvorak would pot his fourth goal of the season late in regulation to bring the score to 5-2.
-- Anton Khudobin had a rare stumble in net, surrendering five goals on just 21 shots. Prior to tonight, Khudobin had only allowed more than three goals in a game once this season. “That wasn’t my best game, definitely. It’s something that didn’t go my way,” he said. “You have to get over it.”
-- Muller, on if the rumblings on change affected the team’s play down the stretch: “They’re human beings,” he said. “Our job is to focus on game-by-game and taking this right to the end. That’s the expectations of what we want to do here. A lot about being a pro in the pro sports world is there’s always rumors and speculation. You have to learn to put everything aside, do your job and get it done.”
-- The Hurricanes will finish out the 2013-14 regular season with games in Detroit on Friday and Philadelphia on Saturday. “You get an opportunity to bounce back tomorrow,” Muller said. “We have to get that professionalism back in and get ready to compete and play hard.”
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Linemates Jason Chimera, Eric Fehr and Joel Ward accounted for nine points, and Troy Brouwer scored two goals in the Washington Capitals' 5-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena on Thursday.
Braden Holtby stopped 36 shots to earn his 23rd win of the season. Marcus Johansson assisted on Brouwer's two goals. The Capitals (37-30-13) have won three straight.
Washington opened the scoring on Ward's 24th goal 62 seconds into the game. Chimera began a strong forecheck by winning a battle along the end wall. He freed the puck for Fehr, whose backhand pass found Ward in front of the net.
The first period featured very little up-and-down action. Each team was playing its first game since being eliminated from contention for the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Chimera-Fehr-Ward line put Washington up 2-0 at 10:58 of the second, when Chimera scored his 15th goal. The Capitals used the same formula, winning battles in the corner until Chimera skated around the top of the crease and slipped the puck around Hurricanes goaltender Anton Khudobin. Fehr and Ward picked up the assists.
The Hurricanes, who have lost three straight, got their feet moving on a power play late in the period, generating five shots, but Holtby challenged the Hurricanes aggressively and kept them off the scoreboard.
Carolina maintained a little energy from the power play and used it to tie the game while shorthanded less than three minutes later. Jordan Staal made a perfect pass through two defenders to Jiri Tlusty, who buried the puck into an open net for his 15th goal at 17:36.
Washington quickly pushed the lead to 3-1, catching the Hurricanes flat-footed defensively. Johansson made a pass from the right faceoff dot to Troy Brouwer, who put his shot inside the left post with 36 seconds remaining in the second period. Defenseman Karl Alzner started the play by knocking down a clearing attempt with his glove at the left point.
It was more of the same early in the third, as Fehr ripped a shot from the right circle just inside the far post to make it 4-1 at 2:25, with each of his linemates earning an assist.
Brouwer scored his second of the night, 25th of the season, at 3:37, firing a one-timer from the slot off Johansson's pass from the boards.