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Caps 5, Canes 3

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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.

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Is this just coachspeak or...?

From Admiral Kirk,
"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."

I'm a Muller (and McLean, Lewis, Brindy) fan but it's bothersome and maybe (I hope not...) telling to hope for breaks that will turn the team around. I don't see the fire that these coaches played with when they were on the ice.

I can't understand why he's having under a hour practices, running a few drills. Wouldn't one or two a days at least an hour or two each have more effect? With the coaches 'teaching' - individually and collectively - here's what is going wrong and I want to see you do this to correct it. Practice & run drills on those things unti lit becomes second nature.

These guys all know how to play hockey - at the highest levels but they aren't playing it together. We have very good players but we don't have a very good TEAM. Coach could and must get them back to the play that was winning games a few weeks ago. Instead of seeming to be "Wishing and Hoping".

But what do I know, I'm just a 15 year STH.

I'd dearly love...

...to read Sittler27's take on this even if he totally shoots down my comments. I do understand that my view as a fan is probably mostly different form a coach's or player's.

Short season

I understand your frustration. I'm pretty frustrated with the team myself.
In this short season it is much like playoffs where you play every other night. Practices are usually just to stay stretched out and loose and go over some system items. really tough to have a rigorous practice when what they guys really need is physical and mental rest. And when 3 games in 4 nights where you can't hide any of your weak links and you are an exposed team.

Last night was a classic example of how things are going. We come out with fire. Go up 2-0 and then make a mistake. No way that OV should not have had a backchecking forward bothering him. But it was a prefect shot. Then a PP goal that Ellis should have had to tie it. But we are still playing well and go ahead. Then another backchecking mistake and Mike Green is the trailer and unmolested. But again Ellis should have had it.
Then a mental mistake and Joni makes an uncharacteristic cross ice pass up the middle. And again a shot that goalie could have stopped.
Last goal was a backbreaker...... pass should never have been made.
So are these system mistakes? Is it a lack of heart. Hard to have heart when your goalies are letting in almost every other shot.
As bad a goalies were we still could have had won this 6-5 if guys would have finished open chances.
I'm rambling here but I think it is no coincidence that free fall started when Cam went down and then deepened when we lost our best defender in Faulk. That and no secondary scoring beyond first line and you can practice all you want but team can't win if you have no goaltending; weak D pairings: and asking one line to carry the team on their backs ( not working in Tampa, San Jose or Buffalo either), especially when you can't ride that line too much due to so many games in short time frame.
btw.... one more thing. We got outhit last night by a bigger team. I have harped on this for several years. You can't win without size with grit on the wings and we simply don't have it.

And this is not to disagree...

...nor dispute but more to add another perspective on the goaltending. Ellis was indeed 'rusty' and didn't play at his best and should have stopped one or all of those first three. But it struck me that his view of the puck was hampered on all three. I didn't catch it at first but on Green's 2nd, Harrison was directly between. And on looking at the CSN feed on the Canes website, Bellemore blocked his view on AO's 1st and Dwyer and a Cap on the 2nd goal. But most important Ellis wasn't doing enough to work around that, eh?

Peters was out of position on both, moved too slow then went down on his face making it far more difficult to stop the puck.

Tough to say

Without a camera angle directly behind the goalie it is tough to comment. But is often said that the great goalies also have a way of keeping a direct sight on the shooter and puck. That is also a form of "rust".... not picking up the puck as well in traffic.
I still don't like that the trailers were so wide open.... usually that is on the forwards not coming back hard to take away time to get off the shot they want.
But, sigh, when its not going well seems that any small miscue ends up in our net.
Not over yet and a run can still get us in. But it had better turn real soon.
Looks like trade deadline will bring no help.

Thanks, you put it well...

...and clarified some things i was trying to say and said your points better than I did.

Even tho' it's late in a short, compressed, tiring season but can't the coaching make some major differences in play and teamwork with some additional "teaching" to correct some deficiencies. These guys are professional athletes and in outstanding game shape. Would it (besides not having the right players together) be more a physical problem or is it more like (for want of a better word) mental or ego fragility?

in the Marines we often had to perform at high levels with little or no rest or downtime, either in training or combat. And believe me I understand the difference between combat and a game. Even one with this risk of injury. We were well trained to work together, even with guys who may not like each other. You fight like you train.

Sittler27 sums it up very

Sittler27 sums it up very nicely. The roster that the Canes have today, absent Ward and Faulk, has a low probability of winning enough games to get into the playoffs -- regardless of coaching and regardless of leadership within the locker room. This is JR's problem to solve.

Check that paragraph that

Check that paragraph that begins "The Caps' offense overshadowed...". You incorrectly wrote that Tlusty had a natural hat trick. It was, in fact, a regular hat trick because the Caps scored two goals between his second and third goals.

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About the blogger

A Raleigh native, Chip has worked at the N&O since 1979 and is the Canes beat writer. He can be reached at chip.alexander@newsobserver.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @ice_chip.
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