For The Carolina Hurricanes To Have Any Hope Of Knocking Off The Champs, They Will Need To Start On Time
The Carolina Hurricanes need to switch up their pre-game routine.
Whatever it is they have been doing prior to puck drop in the first two games of their series against the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals, it isn’t working.
After spotting the Capitals an insurmountable three-goal lead after 13 minutes in Game one on Thursday night, the Hurricanes promptly gave up the first two goals again just over nine minutes into Game two on Saturday afternoon. Combined, the Hurricanes have been outscored 5-1 in the opening frame of the first two games. Not exactly a good plan of attack against a team that’s as battle-tested as the Capitals are.
Ironically, the Hurricanes have actually outshot the Capitals in those opening periods by a 22-16 margin. So while there is no questioning the effort of the Hurricanes, it’s the end result that counts and ultimately tells the tale.
After Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie put the Capitals up 2-0, Carolina’s Lucas Wallmark continued his strong play, scoring his first career playoff goal to get the Hurricanes within one with just over four minutes remaining in the period. Although Capitals goalie Braden Holtby argued for goaltender interference after being spun around 360 degrees in the crease, after review it was deemed a good goal.
The physical play of both teams quickly escalated in the second period.
Returning to the ice after serving a two-minute minor for hooking, Carolina winger Michael Ferland spotted Capitals forward Nic Dowd barreling down the left side entering the Hurricanes zone. As Dowd lost control of the puck just as he entered the zone, Ferland already had him in his sights. Ferland lowered the shoulder and caught Dowd just under the head, shoulder to shoulder. Dowd was down momentarily, and after returning to the bench went to the locker room for concussion protocol.
After a brief meeting between the officials, they assessed Ferland a five-minute match penalty for the hit, which the officials felt targeted Dowd’s head. Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour was irate, as he felt the hit was clean and not directed at Dowd’s head. The match penalty ended Ferland’s night with an ejection.
While that hit was certainly questionable, it was later in the period where another controversial hit occurred.
Hurricanes defenceman Dougie Hamilton laid a vicious elbow to the head of Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov between the two benches along the boards. Hamilton was given a minor penalty for elbowing, but clearly it was the more severe of the two infractions. Kuznetsov was able to stay in the game.
Both Ferland and Hamilton escaped further discipline by the NHL Department of Player Safety, meaning neither will receive a suspension for their infractions.
The only goal of the period was tallied by Hurricanes centre Sebastian Aho, notching his first of the playoffs and first goal in 16 games. They need Aho to continue to deliver to have any hope of getting back in this series.
Shots were 16-6 favouring the Capitals in this period, with goaltender Petr Mrazek standing tall and keeping the Hurricanes in it.
Classic playoff hockey entertained all in the third period, as the teams traded chances back and forth and the referees put the whistles away for the most part.
Capitals winger Tom Wilson, usually the central figure when discussing questionable hits, scored midway through the period on a nice pass from Alexander Ovechkin to put the Capitals back up by one.
After Dowd took the only penalty of the period with a high-sticking minor, Hurricanes centre Jordan Staal tied the game once again on an innocent looking point shot from Hamilton. Staal deflected the waist-high shot, and it bounced off the ice and past a surprised Holtby. The power play marker was scored with exactly five minutes remaining in the frame.
Shots in the third favoured Carolina slightly 10-9.
This one didn’t last long.
Defenceman Brooks Orpik channeled his inner Bill Barilko and scored just 1:48 into the extra frame, sneaking in from the point and taking a great feed from Kuznetsov, who was set up behind the Hurricanes net. Mrazek had no chance on the tally, as Orpik placed the shot perfectly into the top corner over the goalie’s left shoulder. It was the only shot recorded by either team in overtime.
Three Stars Of The Game
First Star: Brooks Orpik, Washington. Game-winning overtime goal. four hits and almost 19 minutes Total On Ice (TOI)
Second Star: Jaccob Slavin, Carolina. Two assists, three blocks and a whopping 28:54 TOI
Third Star: Alex Ovechkin, Washington. Two assists, four shots on goal and seven hits. Still the straw that stirs the drink for Washington
Looking Ahead To Game Three
The series shifts to Raleigh, Carolina for the next two games, beginning Monday night.
As previously noted, the slow starts to games are killing the Hurricanes. They are not being outplayed by any means. Take away the first period in both games and Carolina is outscoring the Capitals 4-3.
But it’s obviously very difficult for a young team like the Hurricanes to continue to play catch-up each game against a veteran group like the Capitals. A strong start at home in game 3 will be vital for Carolina. Anything else and this series could be over by Thursday.
Stats provided by TheScore
Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals