RALEIGH, N.C. — Late in the second period after the Carolina Hurricanes’ second goal on Friday night, Washington Capitals goaltender Tomas Vokoun was slow to get up after his outstretched attempt to keep the puck out of the net proved to be in vain. The veteran netminder stopped a plethora of quality scoring chances on a busy night, but his effort alone wasn’t enough to help the Capitals record a win.
Capitals vs. Hurricanes: Washington suffers first regulation loss in last 10 vs. Carolina
It was a wholly unspectacular showing for the Capitals and the latest of what has become a season-long trend of disappointing games on the road.
“It was tough. You can’t win when you don’t score goals. It’s pretty simple math,” said Vokoun, who was making his 11th start out of the past 12 games. “It’s tough way to lose, especially against a team we should beat and I don’t think we had a good enough effort today to beat them.”
Washington entered Friday’s game 8-0-1 in its last nine games against Carolina. And after playing 43 games this season without being shut out, Washington (25-19-2) has been held scoreless in two of its past three outings, this time after mustering just 23 shots on goaltender Cam Ward. It wasn’t simply a lack of offense that foiled the Capitals in Carolina, though. There were careless turnovers, lazy forechecking efforts and a sub-par showing on special teams.
“It’s a worse feeling than normal when you don’t even get a goal,” Karl Alzner said. “It’s frustrating, too — we had a couple close chances but we didn’t give ourselves enough opportunities to even the score.”
All three of the Hurricanes’ goals game on special teams. Jussi Jokinen led with two goals — one short-handed and another on the power play — while Jiri Tlusty added another power-play tally with 30 seconds remaining.
The Capitals earned three opportunities on the power play but wound up allowing more chances to the Hurricanes (17-24-8) than they created themselves.
The Capitals got the first power play of the game but the tone was set when the hard-working Carolina penalty killers showed what was to come. With Justin Faulk in the box for tripping, the Hurricanes struck first.
John Carlson brought the puck from behind his own goal line but wasn’t taking care to guard it and was poke-checked by Carolina captain Eric Staal. The turnover resulted in a breakaway for Jokinen, who beat Vokoun’s glove side for a 1-0 Hurricanes lead 12 minutes 43 seconds into the contest.
“We were getting outworked on the power play. We were pathetic out there,” Troy Brouwer said. “They’re outworking us on our own power play. That’s why they scored a goal. We were just lazy.”
Carolina carried the one-goal edge into the second, but it could have easily been greater. The Hurricanes continued to manufacture scoring chances and forced Vokoun to make spectacular saves, including a tight short-handed stop on Tlusty. With just less than two minutes to go in the frame, Vokoun thwarted last year’s Calder Trophy winner, Jeff Skinner, who split Roman Hamrlik and Dmitry Orlov for another key opportunity.
If not for Vokoun, the contest likely would have been much more lopsided. As it was, though, the 35-year-old Czech held Washington close enough to at least ensure that a comeback was a possibility — even if it wouldn’t occur.
With Dennis Wideman in the box for interference for the final 1:49 of the second, Alzner sent the puck around the end boards but it was kept in the zone by Carolina’s Tim Brent. Jay Harrison skated the puck through the slot before chipping it toward the goal where two of his teammates stood unguarded, including Jokinen, who swatted the bouncing puck past Vokoun to make it 2-0 with 17.7 seconds left in the period.
“It’s just tough to give up goal whatever seconds left in the period,” Vokoun said. “It’s tough. It didn’t look like we were going to score a lot of goals, trying to keep it as close as possible. When they score that’s a big lead for them, 2-0 going into the third.”
Turned out that advantage was all the Hurricanes needed, even though they’d add a third for good measure as time ticked away.