|WSH||0||0||1||(0 - 0)||1|
|CAR||1||0||2||(0 - 0)||3|
An emotional, tiring and injury-filled week for the Carolina Hurricanes ended with a reward against a team they’re chasing in the Southeast Division race. The Canes started strong for a change and finished even stronger with a 3-1 victory Sunday night.
Michael Leighton, starting his third straight game in place of the injured Cam Ward, was challenged by coach Paul Maurice before the game and he responded, stopping 38 of 39 shots, while Eric Staal scored the game winner with 4:08 left as Carolina snapped a five-game home losing streak.
“It was a gritty win. I thought we competed extremely hard,” said Staal. “We’ll take it.”
Maurice improved to 1-1-1 as the Canes played for the third time in four nights under their new coach, showing more zip and an ability to finish that hasn't been seen in some time at the RBC Center, closing to within four points of the Caps.
Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander Semin, who each had seven points against Carolina in Washington’s previous two wins this season, didn’t figure in any offensive fireworks on this night as Ovechkin was limited to just one assist. Semin was one of nine Washington regulars to miss the game with an injury while Leighton stoned the reigning MVP on his 11 shots and a penalty shot in the second period.
Meanwhile, Carolina played without four of its defenseman as Tim Gleason, Dennis Seidenberg, Frank Kaberle and Niclas Wallin all missed the contest with injuries. Then, with 9:39 left, Anton Babchuk was checked into the boards and did not return. He entered the Carolina locker room after the game in a sling.
“The most dangerous job in America is playing defense for the Carolina Hurricanes right now, guys are dropping all over,” Maurice said.
Carolina took a 1-0 lead and fended off the Caps for most of the game before penalties against Joni Pitkanen and Ryan Bayda cost in the form of a game-tying goal by Nicklas Backstrom with 11:25 left. Instead of folding with a lack of confidence, the Canes stormed back to take the much-needed victory behind Staal’s team-leading third game-winning goal of the season.
“Sometimes you have to fake it,” Maurice said when asked about the team’s mood on the bench after the tying goal. “They are aware that after goals there has been a big sag, so we’ve talked about having guys get up on the bench and start barking and start talking. Even if you feel insecure at the time you have to fake it sometimes. There was lots of talk and guys were trying to pump each other up.”
Staal, the MVP of last year’s NHL All-Star Game, came into the game with just six points in his last 16 games, but managed to free the puck behind the net and slip a wrap-around attempt past Jose Theodore. Ray Whitney added his second of the game 2:07 later to seal it for Carolina.
“I thought he played a very complete game,” Maurice said of Staal, who notched the 18th game-winning goal of his career and his 299th point. “I’m glad he got rewarded in a game where he played both ends of the rink so well. That just kind of reinforces in his mind that it’s not about him cheating to score, he’s a good enough player where he can wait, and maybe the last three or four minutes of the game he’s a game breaker. He’s that good.”
The second period belonged to Leighton, who stopped 16 shots, including a penalty shot in the final 1.2 seconds against Ovechkin, who is now 0-for-5 in his career on penalty shots. Ovechkin was pulled down from behind by Pitkanen, who fanned on a shot with the Canes on the power play and had to try to chase down the Washington star on a breakaway.
“I’ve seen what he’s done before and he usually tries to get it up,” Leighton said of Ovechkin’s penalty-shot style. “I just tried to come out and push him one way.
“It’s not a guy you want to give a penalty shot to, but sometimes you would rather have a chance to set up and get ready for it rather than him coming down the ice.”
Moments before the Ovechkin play, the Canes hit their second post of the period to keep the score at 1-0.
“I thought Michael played a very good game last night (in a 2-1 OT loss to Philadelphia) except for the last goal,” Maurice said. “Sometimes as a goaltender you need to be able to have something separate that game from this game, whether it’s a pat on the back or a challenge. I just explained to him exactly how this game was going to go tonight. They were going to come and he was going to have to be the difference in the game. Good for him because it was a challenge and he took it the right way. He showed an awful lot of character.”
The Canes put together their most complete first period at home in a month, striking first for the first time in nine games at the RBC Center when Whitney picked up a rebound and slipped it past a sprawled Theodore with 6:42 left in the period. It was just the 17th first-period goal in 28 games for Carolina.
NOTES: After five straight games without a point Whitney now has at least a point in each of his last three games. … Brett Carson was called up from Albany to replace the injured Niclas Wallin and made his NHL debut on defense with Joe Corvo, playing 22:07. … Keith Aucoin returned to the RBC Center for the first time since playing 38 games for the Canes last season, wearing No. 20 for Washington. …. Rod Brind’Amour’s assist on the first Carolina goal moved him within four of 700 career helpers. … Brind’Amour won 16 of 20 faceoffs and was a plus 2. … The Canes had a combined 71 shots blocked during a three-game skid, but saw only six of their shots blocked against the Caps.
|Ray Whitney (8) Wrist shot - ASST: Joni Pitkanen (11), Rod Brind'Amour (9)|
1 - 0 CAR
|PPG - Nicklas Backstrom (8) Snap shot - ASST: Alex Ovechkin (21), Jose Theodore (2)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Eric Staal (9) Backhand shot - ASST: Sergei Samsonov (8)|
2 - 1 CAR
|Ray Whitney (9) Wrist shot - ASST: Patrick Eaves (5), Tim Conboy (1)|
3 - 1 CAR
|Ryan Bayda Hi-sticking against Brooks Laich|
|Milan Jurcina Holding against Ray Whitney|
|Ray Whitney Hi-sticking against Karl Alzner|
|Eric Staal Interference against Keith Aucoin|
|Sean Collins Slashing against Eric Staal|
|Joni Pitkanen Hooking against Nicklas Backstrom|
|Ryan Bayda Delaying Game-Puck over glass|
|Joni Pitkanen Unsportsmanlike conduct against Sami Lepisto|
|Sami Lepisto Tripping against Joni Pitkanen|
|Brooks Laich Hooking against Ray Whitney|
|SA: 25||TOI: 58:47|
|Saves: 22||EV: 18 - 21|
|PIM: 0||PP: 4 - 4|
|SV%: .880||SH: 0 - 0|
|SA: 39||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 38||EV: 31 - 31|
|PIM: 0||PP: 6 - 7|
|SV%: .974||SH: 1 - 1|