The Capitals (32-28-6, 70 points) have earned just three points in the first four games of this all-important five-game homestand. They remain in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, two behind Winnipeg for the final playoff berth but with one game in hand. They are two points ahead of 10th-place Tampa Bay.
“This time of year you can’t judge yourself by your intentions. It’s by your results,” said Brooks Laich, who scored with 2 minutes 58 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime. “It’s a game we had to have.”
Each goal scored by the Hurricanes, who sit last in the Southeast Division and 14th in the conference, was the result of a gaffe on the part of a Capital.
Whether it was being caught flat-footed, a blown assignment that left an opponent wide open, a failed attempt to redirect a clearing pass at the offensive blue line or a poor decision to pinch deep into the offensive zone, the plays ended with the puck in Washington’s net.
“We played hard enough again but we made mistakes on our back end tonight,” Coach Dale Hunter said. “It cost them breakaway goals. The winning goal was our back end making mistakes, jumping up and pinching at the wrong time. It cost us the game.”
It proved even more maddening that the errors occurred after the Capitals put together a strong start and held a 2-0 lead less than five minutes into the second period.
An individual effort by Troy Brouwer gave the Capitals the initial lead 13:59 into the first. He carried the puck down the left wing and when his initial shot on net failed, Brouwer followed up and retrieved the loose puck from just under goaltender Cam Ward’s blocker. Brouwer went around the net and backhanded the puck in on the right-post side.
Early in the second a rebound from a point shot by Dmitry Orlov bounced out to the left faceoff circle where Jay Beagle was able to fire a one-timer past Ward (46 saves) at 4:11. It marked Beagle’s first goal of the season.
Only 40 seconds after Beagle’s goal, though, Carolina scored to make it 2-1. Brouwer was slow to get back into the defensive zone, creating a three-on-two for the Hurricanes. A slick pass by Jerome Samson moved from the right wall into the slot, where Jiri Tlusty tipped the puck into a wide-open net with Michal Neuvirth (32 saves) caught out of position.
The Hurricanes evened the score less than four minutes later. A shot by Tim Gleason caromed off the end boards and directly out to Chad LaRose, who was somehow unguarded while standing only feet from the left post. He fired to make it 2-2 at 3:39.
“We’ve got to be able to hold leads,” Brouwer said. “Couple missed assignments, me being one of them. It’s good that we were able to battle back and get a point but again a point just isn’t good enough right now.”