Turnabout – Two weeks ago, the Caps wore down a young and inexperienced group of Carolina blueliners, forechecking the Hurricanes hard on their way to a 3-0 shutout win over their Southeast Division rivals at Verizon Center.
On Tuesday night in the same building, it was Washington that had the young and inexperienced blueline, and the Hurricanes that skated off with a shutout win. While Carolina did not dominate the offensive zone on Tuesday as Washington did for the first 40 minutes in its’ Feb. 26 whitewash of the Canes, the visitors were able to exit their own zone cleanly for the most part, preventing the Caps from setting up camp in the attack zone.
Carolina grabbed an early lead on a fluky goal by ex-Caps defenseman Joe Corvo at 3:55 of the first period and it rode the 26-save netminding of Justin Peters the rest of the way to take a 4-0 decision from the Caps in a game that Washington badly needed to win.
Rookie Riley Nash scored twice for Carolina.
Carolina was missing several regulars in that Feb. 26 game, and it dressed four defensemen that each had fewer than 100 games of NHL experience. The Caps were able to dominate the attack zone that night, and only a strong performance from Canes goalie Cam Ward prevented a blowout.
The Hurricanes were still without Joni Pitkanen on their blueline on Tuesday, but they had Tim Gleason and Jamie McBain in the lineup and the difference was noticeable.
“You could definitely tell they had their regulars in there,” says Caps winger Eric Fehr. “They were moving the puck pretty well and they knew how to get away from pressure from us tonight. We were trying to get hard on the forecheck, but they did a good job.
At the other end of the ice, the Caps had three defensemen each of whom had fewer than 25 games played in the NHL. While those three acquitted themselves well enough on the night, the Carolina game plan on Tuesday was similar to that of the Caps two weeks earlier.
“It was kind of a twist of the last time we came in with all our injuries and all that and such a young defense corps,” says Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller. “We emphasized that we wanted to get pucks behind their [defense] tonight and go to work and play hard in their zone. I think our guys were smart with their puck placement here tonight and I though it was an overall strong game by our group tonight.”
Although the Caps didn’t cycle the puck as well as they did two weeks earlier against Carolina, they had their scoring chances, especially early. But they weren’t able to cash in, and they’ve now scored a combined total of three goals in their last three games, this after scoring four goals in the first period of the game that preceded their current three-game skid.
“We’ve just got to find an opportunity in front of the net,” says Fehr, “find a puck and put it in. That’s what it comes down to. We weren’t hungry enough in front of the net.”
Peters helped his own cause by playing the puck smartly and efficiently all night.
“It did seem like they were able to break out a little bit easier tonight than in the past,” says Caps forward Matt Hendricks. “They’ve got a different team with two or three different defensemen back there, veteran high-minute guys. That makes a difference. “
“Their goalie played the puck well tonight, which makes a big difference. The onus is on us there though, because we can’t allow him to get those dumps. We’ve got to get dumps by him or short of him It’s got to be one of the two, it can’t be in his wheelhouse where he can stand back there and pick them up and make plays.”
No Power Needed – Coming into Tuesday’s game, Carolina was 5-1 in its previous six games, and the Hurricanes were averaging better than four goals a game in those half-dozen contests.
In its previous 20 periods of hockey, the Canes had tallied 28 goals and 26 of them were at even-strength. The Canes kept that even-strength mojo rolling on Tuesday, scoring three even-strength goals and adding a shorthanded empty-netter near the end of the game.
Carolina is now 6-1 in its last seven games, despite going just 2-for-24 (8.3%) on the power play during that span.
Debut on Defense – Blueliner Cameron Schilling became the second Caps defenseman in a week to make his NHL debut. Schilling follows Steve Oleksy, who made his NHL debut against Boston at Verizon Center exactly a week earlier.
Schilling, who signed with Washington as a free agent less than a year ago (on March 27, 2012), was recalled from Hershey where he had six goals and 14 points in 54 games and was a plus-7 with the Bears.
Partnered with Oleksy, Schilling skated 11:58 and was a minus-1 with one blocked shot in his NHL debut.
First Scrap – Olesky notched his first NHL fight against Carolina’s Drayson Bowman on Tuesday. Oleksy had 51 fights during his minor league career, including 11 with Hershey in 2012-13.
Oleksy was the clear winner in his first NHL bout; he landed the most and the best punches in the fight. It was also the first NHL bout for Bowman, who has six career AHL fights under his belt.
Drawing Blanks – Tonight’s game featured a pair of goaltenders that had each authored shutouts in their most recent start against tonight’s opponent. Holtby blanked Carolina by a 3-0 count on 33 shots two weeks ago at Verizon Center, on Feb. 26.
Peters blanked the Caps 5-0 on Feb. 20, 2012 for the first shutout of his NHL career and he victimized Washington for his second NHL shutout on Tuesday.
The Caps have now been shutout 154 times in their history, with 13 of those coming at the hands of the Hartford/Carolina franchise. Only the Montreal Canadiens (19) have shutout the Capitals more times than the Whalers/Hurricanes have during the life of Washington’s NHL existence.
Washington has 135 shutouts of its own, including three this season.
Shooting Blanks – Caps captain Alex Ovechkin was held without a shot on goal for the second time this season. Both of those shotless games have come against Carolina; he is without a shot against the Hurricanes this season. Ovechkin attempted five shots in Tuesday’s game; two were blocked and five missed the net.
This is the first season in Ovechkin’s eight-year NHL career in which he has been held without a shot more than once in the same season. Before the Hurricanes held him without a shot on Feb. 26, Ovechkin had gone 101 straight regular season games without a goose egg in the shot column.
In 578 career NHL games, Ovechkin has now been held without a shot on goal just six times. Two of those six have come in his last eight games.
Lacking Leads – Washington has held the lead after the first period in just six of its 25 games this season and it has led after 40 minutes in nine of those 25 contests. Only Columbus, Ottawa and Buffalo (five each) have held a lead fewer times than Washington after the first 20 minutes this season.
The Caps are 3-3 when leading after the first period (tied for 28th in the NHL). They are 6-3 when leading after the second period (tied for 25th in the league).
Silver Lining – The Caps have reached the 25-game mark without enduring a single shootout. That’s a franchise record; the Caps got 24 games into the 2007-08 season before facing their first shootout situation.
Shutout Streak – Peters won the 13th game of his NHL career on Tuesday against the Capitals. He is now 3-1 lifetime against Washington with two shutouts, a 1.49 GAA and a .945 save pct.
Peters has authored two of the last four shutouts the Caps have suffered, and Carolina has been responsible for three of the last five whitewashes against Washington.
Dating back to the third period of his Nov. 24, 2010 start against the Capitals in Raleigh, Peters has now put together a shutout streak against the Caps of 127 minutes and 53 seconds in length.
No Divisional Drama – Carolina’s win puts it 10 points ahead of Washington in the Southeast Division with just 23 games remaining for both clubs. Including Thursday’s game in Raleigh, the two teams have three meetings remaining this season. Even if Washington were to win all three of those games in regulation, it would still need to make up four points elsewhere to draw even with the Hurricanes.
By The Numbers – John Carlson led the Caps with 24:26 in ice time … Kundratek established a single-game career best with 24:13 on the night … Kundratek led the Caps with five shots on goal … Ovechkin and Mike Ribeiro led the way for Washington with five hits each … Oleksy paced the Caps with four blocked shots on the night … Ten different Caps took at least one face-off on Tuesday, but only Jason Chimera (1-for-1), Joel Ward (3-for-3) and Jay Beagle (5-for-8) won more than they lost … The Staal brothers (Eric and Jordan) combined to take 37 of the 62 draws in the game for Carolina, winning 24 of them (64.9%).