Jan. 12 vs. Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena
Time: 7:30 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington +
Radio: FAN 106.7, Capitals Radio 24/7
Washington Capitals 27-14-3
Carolina Hurricanes 20-15-8
You go back, Jack, and do it again. That’s what the Capitals and the Carolina Hurricanes will be doing on Friday night in Raleigh at PNC Arena, facing off a night after they played one another in the District in the front end of a home-and-home set of back-to-back games.
Carolina came out on top in Thursday’s game in the District, taking a 3-1 decision from the Capitals and ending Washington’s winning streak at five. The Canes also halted the Caps’ 10-game winning streak on home ice, the longest streak of its kind in the NHL this season.
Friday’s meeting is the third between the Caps and the Canes in a span of just 11 nights, accounting for three-quarters of the season’s series. As soon as Friday’s game is concluded, the Caps will begin their “bye week;” they’ll be off until Thursday when they take to the road to take on the New Jersey Devils in Newark.
Washington had 10 shots on net in the first 9:07 of Thursday’s game against Carolina, with four of them coming from winger Brett Connolly, who was originally slated to sit Thursday’s game out in favor of Andre Burakovsky. Burakovsky became ill before Thursday’s game, and was a late scratch – he won’t travel with the Capitals to Raleigh for Friday’s rematch, either.
All four of Connolly’s first-period shots on net came from 16 feet or closer, but Carolina goaltender Scott Darling was better than he’s been of late. Darling entered the game with a 1-5-1 record and similarly horrid qualitative numbers in his previous eight appearances, but he was rock solid on Thursday, stopping 27 of the 28 shots he faced on the night.
After the first 10 minutes of the game, the Capitals’ chances thinned out. With the game tied 1-1 in the third, the Caps had a pair of odd-man rushes, but neither produced as much as a shot on net. Washington had a power play opportunity after Carolina’s Victor Rask scored to make it 2-1 midway through the third, but the Caps couldn’t muster a shot on goal with that extra-man chance.
“They’re obviously a transition team,” says Caps center Jay Beagle of the Hurricanes, “and they come at you hard. I think the more you get it deep on these guys, the more you take away from their speed and the way they like to play. So I think if we just make sure we’re getting it behind them and make sure we are going after them behind their goal line, it kind of takes away their speed and game a little bit. They work hard; they work really hard. I’m looking forward to [Friday] now.”
The Hurricanes swarmed the Caps on the forecheck, and frequently swarmed them at the Carolina line, too. Ice was hard to come by for the Capitals.
“I thought we weren’t really good at breaking out of our end,” says Caps coach Barry Trotz. “I thought they did a good job of forechecking us tonight. One thing Carolina does is they can skate. And they try to pressure you, put you in small areas. And they did that, and so everything has to be crisp. You have to make sure that you stay underneath the puck, so you keep it in front of you all the time. They’ve got really good sticks, and they’ve got a good structure, and they work hard. So you’ve got to battle, you’ve got to win your inches, and you’ve got to execute at a high pace.”
The Caps weren’t able to do those things on Thursday, and they paid the price. They’ll get another chance on Friday against the Canes in Raleigh, their last chance to collect points for nearly a week, until Thursday’s visit to New Jersey.
“It’s a little bit weird with the schedule,” says Beagle. “Obviously, you’ve got to have a back-to-back against the same team, and then a [five]-day break with the bye week. We’re just going to have to make sure that we go after them and get the two points and go into the bye week on a high, and on a right note. So, take care of them [on Friday].”
With Thursday’s win, the Hurricanes hopped over both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and into the second wild card position in the NHL’s Eastern Conference standings.
“It’s good, obviously,” said Canes coach Bill Peters after Thursday’s game. “Two points in regulation is really the only way you can gain ground. The overtime or the three-point game doesn’t do much for you. We were talking about it earlier today. We were up one late in the Washington game at home [on Jan. 2], probably with about seven, eight or nine minutes to go, and then [the Caps] had a cross-corner dump that we didn’t handle as quite well as we would have liked. Then we hit a post in overtime and they come down and get the game winner. So that’s how close it is; that’s the reality of it.
“And what’s going to happen is we’re going to play two more games here, and then we’re going to go on our bye [week]. And then when you go on a bye, you’re going to lose some ground. That’s reality. So wrap your head around the fact that you better make hay while the sun shines, and it was a nice day in Washington here today.”
Carolina starts its own bye week on Monday; the Canes will host Calgary on Sunday afternoon and will be idle until Jan. 20 when it travels to Detroit to take on the Red Wings.