“Just embarrassing, I think. Our effort is not good enough. Especially if you’re gonna hunt that playoff spot, you can’t play like this. We’ve gotta be better than this,” Nicklas Backstrom said. “I think tonight was 60 minutes of just terrible effort from us. I don’t know what it is, but we for sure need to talk about it.”
Despite a plethora of scoring chances throughout the game, the Capitals couldn’t solve third-string Carolina netminder Justin Peters, who finished with 26 saves for his second straight shutout against Washington.
Defenseman Karl Alzner said he didn’t believe the Capitals played tough in any of the three zones.
“I think that we could have done a little bit more going to the net. A few times we could have closed off quicker in the neutral zone and in the D-zone,” Alzner said. “We’ve got to work a little bit harder to slow guys up in the neutral zone, slow them down in the D-zone and that comes from battling just a little bit harder.”
In Peters’s last start vs. Washington, on Feb. 20, 2012, he made 17 saves in a 5-0 Hurricanes win that marked the worst regular season defeat of Dale Hunter’s tenure as Capitals coach. Peters continued his mastery of the Capitals on Tuesday, stopping a variety of high-quality shots from the opening minutes forward for his 13th career NHL win.
“I felt comfortable,” said Peters, who is 3-1 with a 1.49 goals against average and .945 save percentage all-time against the Capitals. He acknowledged that Carolina arrived with an agenda of creating more distance in the standings.
“Obviously you want to try and create space there,” Peters said. “We were focused on tonight, coming in here and trying to do that.”
Washington’s first line had two stellar opportunities on its first shift alone. A give-and-go between Alex Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson zipped through the offensive zone but Johansson sent his shot wide. Mike Ribeiro set up Johansson again with a cross-crease pass and a wide-open net to shoot at as Peters slid from post to post. Johansson fired wide once more.
Following the early flurry, Carolina struck. Eric Staal won a faceoff against Matt Hendricks back to Alexander Semin, who fired the puck into the right corner. Joe Corvo chased it down and fired a shot off of Braden Holtby’s mask and into the net for a 1-0 lead just 3 minutes 55 seconds into the contest.
After establishing the initial lead the Hurricanes’ game plan became clear: try to take advantage of Washington’s defense, which was without Mike Green, John Erskine and Tom Poti because of injuries.