Staff photo by Chris Seward
RALEIGH — The Carolina Hurricanes didn’t let up in their quest for a playoff spot.
And they especially didn't let up in the third period, breaking a 1-1 stalemate with three unanswered goals.
Carolina won its third game in a row and eighth straight home contest, holding off a feisty Washington Capitals squad 4-1 at the RBC Center Saturday.
The Hurricanes' faithful erupted with a standing ovation on a night several hundred Capitals' fans made the trek to support their team.
"We love it when there’s a section of visiting fans because it seems to get our fans going," said Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice. "It’s a great, great building and we’ve played well on home ice and the fans appreciate that. On nights like tonight you really need them behind you. They were great again."
Out-shot 20-15 in the first two periods, the Hurricanes had a 15 -12 advantage in the final period, the three-shot advantage ironically equalling the number of times they found the net in the third period.
"Well I don’t think we were overly excited about the first period but … you have to understand that was three in four (nights) for us and (Washington) came in fresh and had a lot of jump," said Maurice. "We did what we needed to. We survived the first period. At times you have to do that."
Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward kept the Canes in the game early with a couple of big saves (he finished with 31 saves) and defenseman Joe Corvo went to work on offensive star Alex Ovechkin, limiting his play-making abilities.
"I felt confident," said Ward. "I felt good. It’s my job to be ready from the jump of the puck and come up with the saves. But … we got better and better. It was never a question of competing.
"For whatever reason we may have been gripping the sticks a little bit tight just because the importance of the game. We loosened up and got back to playing like we can and saved our best period for the third."
The Hurricanes scored first, with Rod Brind'Amour collecting Jussi Jokinen's pass on the left circle to fire past Washington goalie Jose Theodore at 3:53 in the second period.
But even as the Hurricanes seemed more alive in the second period, Mike Green got one past Ward with 34 seconds to go before the second intermission.
Nicklas Backstrom and Ovechkin worked the puck back and forth on the left wing before Backstrom fired and as Ward deflected the shot towards the right circle, Green was there to send the puck back past Ward.
Ovechkin was limited to that single assist, though he did fire a game-high seven shots on goal. And Caps' wing Alexander Semin didn't get a point. Maurice, like Ward, credited Corvo and Staal's line in general of "limiting what they were able to do off the rush."
"If you give guys time in space, they can make you look silly," added Ward, who called the Caps the best offensive team in the Eastern Conference. "We definitely played them tight."
The Hurricanes turned on the jets in the final period, first scoring at 4:42 when Joni Pitkanen back-handed the puck past Theodore. Pitkanen picked up the rebound of Staal's shot from the left circle.
Later in the period, Canes forward Ray Whitney brought the puck up the left wing and then dropped it back to Dennis Seidenberg, just behind him.
Seidenberg saw Anton Babchuk in front of the crease and fired, hoping Babchuck would tip it in. Babchuk did get his stick on the puck, but he scored on the rebound at 13:43.
"I don’t know that we drew it up to have both of our defensemen stand in front of the net but that’s what they saw and that’s what they read," said Maurice. "A big part of that has to do with how our forwards are playing in front of them. We have somebody cycle out and take their position on the blue line. It’s allowed our defense to be more aggressive."
Corvo put the finishing touches on the game with an empty net goal fired from deep in the Hurricanes zone, down the center of the ice.
Ovechkin tried to chase the puck down and if he had a fraction of a second longer, he might have prevented the final goal at 19:01 of the third.
"I felt like getting my curling stick out and start sweeping the ice if I could," laughed Ward, of his view from the opposite end. "It was like it was in slow motion. It eventually got there and it definitely was a sigh of relief."
With the win, the Hurricanes earned their 85th point and held on to sixth place in the Eastern Conference. They have eight games left to play, though most of the teams they’re fighting with for a spot have games in hand.
The win kept them a point ahead of the New York Rangers, who beat the Buffalo Sabres 5-3. And it pushed the Hurricanes five points ahead of the Florida Panthers, who are next on the schedule.
"We had some banged up guys in our lineup," said Maurice. "Some guys fought through it. Eric Staal played almost 25 minutes [for the record 24:31, matched only by Joni Pitkanen]. He played exceptionally well.
"We got really big efforts and I also think we got better and built as the game went on. ... It was a quiet room before the game, it was quiet in between the periods because there wasn’t a lot left in the tank. We’ll get a good day off tomorrow."
The Hurricanes travel to Sunrise, Fla., for an untelevised — neither team will be broadcasting the game on TV — game at the BankAtlantic Center on Monday.
Hurricanes defenseman Joe Corvo scored and empty net goal with 58.9 seconds left, the puck barely getting into the net with the Washington Capital's Alex Ovechkin on its trail.
Anton Babchuk gives the Hurricanes a little more breathing room and a 3-1 lead at 13:43 of the third period.
Ray Whitney had droped the puck back to Dennis Seidenberg on the left wing. Seidenberg fired and Babchuk, in front of the net, tried to top it in. While Theodore deflected the shot, Babchuck put the rebound back in the net. …
Joni Pitkanen gave the Hurricanes the lead back at 4:42 in the third period.
The Hurricanes had pushed the puck deep right after killing off a penalty. Eric Staal had fired from the left circle when Pitkanen collected the rebound and backhanded the puck past Jose Theodore.
It was Pitkanen’s first goal since Feb. 22. …
The Hurricanes had just mustered a much better effort in the second period, reflected in a one-goal lead, but in the final minute of the period, Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin worked the puck on the left wing.
Backstrom fired, the puck banking off of Carolina goalie Cam Ward, and moving in on the right wing was Mike Green, who fired right back at Ward to tie the game at 19:26 in the second period. …
Canes forward Jussi Jokinen served the puck out of the left corner, passing to Rod Brind’Amour, who collected the puck and fired from the left circle to put the Hurricanes up 1-0 at 2:93 of the second period.
Canes forward Sergei Samsonov also earned an assist on the play, his 499th career point. …
The Hurricanes start the second period in penalty kill mode, having to kill off 1:23 from Joni Pitkanen’s cross checking penalty. …
The game may be scoreless but Hurricanes were out-hustled in the first period, a fact that was reflected in the Capitals’ 10-4 shots on goal advantage.
The Hurricanes did a have a few legitimate chances to score, most notably Erik Cole’s break that he nearly back handed on Washington goalie Jose Theodore, but on the other end, it’s surprising that Washington didn’t score.
The Hurricanes had trouble keeping the puck on their sticks and have to be thankful for Cam Ward’s 10 saves. They failed to take advantage of two power plays and had trouble even setting up their power play.
And on that front, the Capitals have 1:23 left in their own power play heading into the second period. Joni Pitkanen had been called for cross checking. …
Washington’s Alex Ovechkin fired past Carolina goalie Cam Ward, but the Caps’ Nicklas Backstrom had already been called for hooking late in the first period of a 0-0 contest at RBC Center. ...
Plenty on the line tonight at the RBC Center. The Hurricanes need to win to hold on to sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings or risk being passed by the New York Rangers, who are playing the Buffalo Sabres tonight as well. ...
Here are the Canes' lines:
Tuomo Ruutu, Eric Staal, Erik Cole
Chad LaRose, Matt Cullen, Ray Whitney
Jussi Jokinen, Rod Brind’Amour, Sergei Samsonov
Tim Conboy, Dwight Helminen, Patrick Eaves