The Capitals marked the mid-point of their season with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes Thursday night. Jeff Skinner completed his second career hat trick 1:20 into the extra session to give the ‘Canes their second win in as many nights. Just a few days after firing 35 shots against Ottawa and 50 against Ryan Miller in Buffalo, the Caps peppered Carolina goaltender Anton Khudobin with 41 shots, but still couldn’t muster the extra point.
Playing on the second line after being stuck in a four-goal scoring slump, Alexander Ovechkin was able to notch the Capitals first goal of the game.
“I think we played very well,” Ovechkin said of his new linemates. “Controlled the puck in the neutral zone, the offensive zone…so, we’ll see.”
Ovechkin also had an unsuccessful penalty shot attempt in the second period.
“The puck started bouncing,” he said. “As soon as it started bouncing I was confused and, you know, I should just shoot the puck because the condition on the ice was not that good.”
Despite starting the game well – the Caps created quality chances and outshot the ‘Canes 11-3 through the first half of the first period – a bench penalty for too many men on the ice and Brooks Laich’s high-stick penalty taken 48 seconds apart put the Caps on a 5-on-3 penalty kill that resulted in Carolina opening the scoring at 13:27 of the first period.
Capitals Head Coach Adam Oates said the unnecessary too many men penalty was an issue of concentration, not miscommunication. He expressed his disappointment, as he has in the past, with veteran players making costly mistakes.
In addition to the penalties, a familiar problem sunk the Caps in their fourth game of the season against Carolina.
“It’s sort of embarrassing,” Brooks Laich, who returned to the lineup after sitting out with a lingering groin injury, said of the Capitals tendency to allow goals in the first shift after they score. Against the Hurricanes, the Caps allowed two Carolina goals less than a minute after Washington had scored to tie the game or take the lead. “You score a goal, you stick to your rules that next shift. You get the puck, you get it in deep; that way, their bench is in some disarray.”
While Troy Brouwer was more measured in his remarks on the Capitals tendency to allow fast response goals, he expressed similar sentiments.
“We’ve got to be able to calm it down,” Brouwer said. “Whenever we score a goal, we had a couple big goals to put us ahead there, we’ve got to be able to build off that and…make sure we’re not giving them opportunities right away, which is what we did. It’s been a problem all year long.”
Brouwer also noted that the Capitals also allowed too many turnovers – another familiar problem – against a fast, transition team that was able to capitalize with multiple goals off the rush.
With only two points collected in their last three games, and 10 regulation wins out of 41 games, the Capitals leave for Minnesota in a bit of a slump.
However, Adam Oates said he believes that his team could have won any of their last three games and despite some recurring problems that have dogged the Capitals throughout the first half of their season, he is mostly pleased with his team up to this point.
“There’s been lots of ways we’ve lost games, but we’re also in every single game,” he said. “We’re doing some things well, we’ve just got to refine the details.”
After carrying the play and handily outshooting the Hurricanes for the first half of the first period, the Caps took a too many men on the ice penalty followed by a high-stick just 48 seconds later. The Capitals nearly killed the ‘Canes two-man advantage when Nicklas Backstrom broke his stick. This gave Jeff Skinner a perfect opportunity to score from just below the right circle.
Alexander Ovechkin broke out of his four-game scoring slump to tie the game just 49 seconds into the second period. Ovechkin picked up Marcus Johansson’s pass in the neutral zone and fired a shot from just above the right circle past Khudobin.
Only 55 seconds later, though, Manny Malhotra and Drayson Bowman skated into the Caps zone with a 2-on-1 break. Malhotra opted to shoot, beating Grubauer at 1:44 of the second period.
Troy Brouwer bankhanded Backstrom’s rebound past Khudobin to knot the score at 2 at 3:02 of the second period.
Just 38 seconds after Brouwer’s goal, the Capitals were awarded a penalty shot. Alexander Ovechkin missed on the attempt, though.
Steve Oleksy made his way around the ‘Canes net and fired a turning shot past Khudobin to give the Caps their first lead of the game at 3:54 of the second period.
The 3-2 advantage didn’t last long, though, as Skinner pounced on a rebound to score his second goal of the night just 40 seconds later.
After trading chances in the third period, the Caps and ‘Canes headed to overtime. Carolina capitalized on defenseman Dmitry Orlov jumping into the play – a mistake Adam Oates attributed to a young player getting caught up in the moment – to create an odd-man break that resulted in Skinner’s game-winner.