Washington’s matchup with the Hurricanes Friday was bound to be one of their biggest challenges of late, considering their 5-1 loss to Carolina earlier this season. While it wasn’t pretty, the Capitals escaped PNC Arena with a 4-3 shootout victory Friday.
With their sixth straight win, the Capitals tied the Philadelphia Flyers for third in the Metropolitan with 41 points, and are just three points away from claiming the division lead.
Washington did not get off to a strong start against Carolina, and let Jeff Skinner and the Hurricanes’ young offense do their worst damage. About five minutes into the first, Matt Niskanen left Skinner alone in front to stand in the paint, and though he tried to stop him, Skinner had no problem receiving a pass in the crease and pushing the puck past Philipp Grubauer.
The Capitals also failed to score on a power play opportunity a minute later and didn’t seem to have too much offense in their game. In fact, they headed into the dressing room after 20 minutes with Carolina outshooting them 9-5.
After a refreshing intermission, the Capitals came out rejuvenized with much more offensive stride and momentum. They’d get a power play chance around six minutes in, and despite the Hurricanes’ top penalty kill, they could not shut down Alex Ovechkin.
The Russian winger usually scores off a one-timer in the left circle, but this time, he snapped the puck past Cam Ward on a drop pass from Nicklas Backstrom to even the score. The Capitals have now scored at least one power play goal in four straight games.
Soon after, Justin Williams was credited with a goal after an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot bounced in off his skate. The Capitals wouldn’t hold onto the lead for long, however, and Justin Faulk would even the score less than two minutes later. The Capitals tied the Hurricanes in shot totals, but also needed a refresher after taking three penalties in the critical middle frame.
Washington again allowed the opposition to get away from them, and Teuvo Teravainen scored about 40 seconds into the third period to reclaim the lead for the Hurricanes.
Following the goal, the Capitals tried to formulate many different plays to get the puck past Ward. However, with barely seven minutes left in regulation, T.J. Oshie tied the game on a solid tip off a Dmitry Orlov slapshot. In the end, simply getting pucks on net and bodies in front was the key to scoring.
While both teams escaped the overtime period with plenty of chances, neither team could muster up much offense thanks to a strong performance from Ward and Grubauer. They kept their teams alive in this game, and thanks to both goaltenders, each team was held scoreless through the extra five minutes.
After Sebastian Aho missed his first attempt, T.J. Oshie tried to take the shootout lead and succeeded on a slow and steady deke that got the puck past Ward. Jaccob Slavin shot second for Carolina, and though he beat Grubauer in every way, he hit the post. Kuznetsov ripped the puck past Ward on the Capitals’ second attempt to take the 4-3 victory.
CAR – Jeff Skinner (12) assisted by Derek Ryan and Victor Rask
WSH- Alex Ovechkin (14) assisted by Nicklas Backstrom and Justin Williams
WSH- Justin Williams (7) assisted by Evgeny Kuznetsov and Matt Niskanen
CAR- Justin Faulk (5) assisted by Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen.
Teuvo Teravainen (8) assisted by Sebastian Aho and Jaccob Slavin
WSH- T.J. Oshie (10) assisted by Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen
WSH – T.J. Oshie
WSH- Evgeny Kuznetsov
THW Three Stars
First: T.J. Oshie (one goal, one shootout goal)
Second: Matt Niskanen (two assists)
Third: Evgeny Kuznetsov (one assist, one shootout goal)
Montreal Canadiens at Washington Capitals
Verizon Center, 7 p.m. EST on December 17
Broadcast Channels: CSN, NHLN, TVAS
Sammi Silber covers the Capitals beat for The Hockey Writers and is an NHL contributor with Sporting News. She has also contributed to USA TODAY College, Huffington Post, FanSided and the Nation Network. Silber has written four books and recently worked on graphics for the film, The California Golden Seals Movie.