RALEIGH -- For the Carolina Hurricanes, it was a tough loss, a hard loss. There's no way around that.
The Hurricanes lost arguably their best defenseman, Joni Pitkanen, to an apparent ankle or heel injury.
The Hurricanes' goaltenders couldn't make key saves.
The Hurricanes couldn't stop themselves from making turnovers and mistakes.
Finally, the Hurricanes couldn't stop the Washington Capitals, who used a big second period Tuesday to take a 5-3 win at PNC Arena and move ahead of the Canes in the NHL's Eastern Conference.
Jiri Tlusty notched his first career hat trick for the Canes, scoring twice on the power play. Usually, hat tricks spur victories.
Not this time. Not with Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green each scoring two goals for the Caps. Not with Nicklas Backstrom assisting on four goals, or with Joel Ward scoring a shorthanded goal.
"It didn't go the way we wanted it to but we can't get down on ourselves," Tlusty said. "We have to stay focused, stay confident. We need to win the next game because then it will be snowballing and it will be rolling, because there were too many good things we did out there tonight."
Pitkanen was hurt with two minutes left in the second period as he raced down the ice attempting to touch up the puck for an icing call against Washington. With Troy Brouwer in pursuit for the Caps, Pitkanen lost an edge and slammed into the end boards, his right leg bending under him.
Pitkanen was down on the ice for several minutes before being taken off on a stretcher. Canes coach Kirk Muller said he was not sure about the severity of the injury but said Pitkanen was treated at PNC Arena.
Muller said the Canes may have deserved better in losing three of the last four, saying, "We've got to stay positive. We just said, hey, somewhere along the stretch something's going to give and some break is going to happen for us and it will turn."
Green had a pair of goals, Ovechkin scored his second of the game and Ward had the shorthanded score as Washington (17-17-2) took control in the second. The Caps were outshot 24-11 through two periods but made the most of their scoring chances -- and Canes turnovers.
Canes goaltender Dan Ellis, starting his first game since being sidelined March 21 with a leg injury, was lifted in the second for Justin Peters after allowing three goals on seven shots. After two periods, Ellis and Peters had given up five goals and made six saves.
The Caps' offense overshadowed Tlusty's big night. Tlusty scored twice in the opening period as Carolina took a 2-1 lead -- the second goal on a power play -- and then added a second power-play score in the second period to finish off a natural hat trick and give Carolina a 3-2 lead.
But Green scored after a turnover in the Canes zone by Eric Staal to tie the score 3-3 and end Ellis' night. Ovechkin then finished off a two-on-one break after a turnover by Pitkanen.
The Hurricanes (16-17-2) had a power play late in the second, but an errant pass by defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron, playing his first game for the Canes, resulted in a shorthanded rush that ended with Ward scoring off a Marcus Johansson pass.
Bergeron was traded to Carolina on Tuesday morning from the Tampa Bay Lightning and arrived a few hours before game time.
The Canes controlled most of the opening period, outshooting the Caps 10-4. But Ovechkin got the Caps on the board with 39 seconds left in the period, ripping a shot from the right circle past Ellis.
Tlusty's first goal came at 11:32 of the first on a rush into the Caps zone. Defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti, back in the lineup after an upper-body injury, joined the rush and put a shot on goal that Caps goalie Braden Holtby stopped, but Tlusty crashed the net and scored on a rebound.
The Canes then took a 2-0 lead after the Caps' Jay Beagle was called for interference against Chad LaRose behind the Caps net. Tlusty took a pass from Bergeron and wristed a shot from the right circle past Holtby.
The Canes were last in the NHL on the power play entering the game, but Bergeron looked calm and steady at the point and Carolina had three shots.
With Bergeron available, the Canes dressed seven defensemen. The scratches included defenseman Jamie McBain, who has played the past 16 games.
The Canes killed off a Caps power play seven minutes into the game after Alex Semin was penalized for tripping. Washington came into the game second in the NHL in power-play percentage (24.4).
The Canes were seeking their first home win since March 9 against the New Jersey Devils. Carolina is 7-10-0 at PNC Arena this season and have lost five straight on home ice.
Carolina was completing a back-to-back after a 4-1 loss to Montreal on Monday. The Caps were rested after an overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday.
Ellis, who missed the past four games, was making his first start since March 21 against New Jersey but appeared rusty.