Fourth-liner Joey Crabb and superstar winger Alex Ovechkin scored to tie the game. Then, desperate to prevent Carolina from a point and with the clock approaching the final two minutes, Ovechkin sprung free on a breakaway. His shot hit the post, but Mike Ribeiro knocked the loose rebound just barely over the goal line for the decisive score and a 3-2 victory.
“I thought like, ‘Jesus, like please. Just goes in somehow’ and it went in,” said Ovechkin, who recorded his 700th career point in the contest. “It’s kind of disappointed for me like I can shoot easily for second goal but right now the kind of position we are it doesn't matter if me or Ribs score, it's huge two points for us.”
Washington (11-14-1) sits in 12th place in the Eastern Conference with 23 points, seven back of eighth-place Winnipeg for the final postseason berth; the Caps are eight behind the division-leading Hurricanes with 22 games to play.
“That's huge. With this schedule you can’t afford to go four or five games without a point or a win, especially in our position,” said Aaron Volpatti, who set up Crabb’s second-period goal to kick-start the comeback. “It doesn't matter how we did it. We got it done and it'll be big for us here.”
It took a little while for the Capitals to get to the point that they were whooping it up in the visitors’ tunnel here as they came off the ice, though. Within the first 74 seconds of the game, Carolina jumped ahead.
The Hurricanes’ top line hemmed Washington deep in its own zone, winning races to loose pucks and generally outhustling the visitors. Former Capitals winger Alexander Semin outworked Marcus Johansson below the goal line, shoving the 22-year-old Swede into the back of the net before making his way out in front where he was in perfect position receive the puck and fire a shot past Michal Neuvirth to make it 1-0.
Neuvirth, who was making his first start since Feb. 7, finished with 36 saves.
Carolina continued to dominate the opening frame, swarming the offensive zone. With 8 minutes 17 seconds gone in the period, Patrick Dwyer deflected a point shot by Tim Gleason in the high slot to make it 2-0 Carolina.
The more damaging event for Washington came in between the tallies. Tomas Kundratek left the game with an apparent right leg injury with 7:49 gone in the first after Carolina forward Jeff Skinner fell on him. Kundratek will not travel with the team to Boston, Coach Adam Oates said, instead returning to Washington for an MRI exam.