Rather than taking advantage of that opportunity, the game seemed out of reach from the start. Washington remains in 10th place following the loss with 63 points, one out of eighth, and sits in third in the Southeast Division standings with 23 games to play in its 2011-12 regular season.
“Embarrassing effort, right from the start,” Troy Brouwer said. “We weren’t ready to play. Gave up chances, gave the puck away, didn’t get the puck in deep. Just all around embarrassing.”
Carolina entered the contest shorthanded. Top goalie and former Conn Smythe winner Cam Ward was out with a lower body injury. Rather than immediately challenging seldom-used backup Justin Peters, Washington gave up a pair of goals in the first 5 minutes 9 seconds.
By game’s end, all Peters needed for his first NHL shutout was 17 saves.
It marked his first shutout at any level since Dec. 11, 2009, when he shut out the Hershey Bears while playing for the Albany River Rats of the AHL.
Hurricanes rookie defenseman Justin Faulk kicked off the rout with a power-play goal 3:41 into the first, making Monday’s tilt the fifth consecutive game that Washington has given up the first goal.
Only 1:28 later, Carolina made it 2-0 on a rush created by a bad turnover at the Capitals’ blue line. Marcus Johansson was carrying the puck when Jiri Tlusty knocked him down to gain possession.
Mike Green couldn’t cover the Hurricanes’ center quickly enough to prevent Tlusty from passing to Eric Staal on the right wing boards and creating a 3-on-2 rush. Staal centered to Anthony Stewart, who beat Tomas Vokoun on Carolina’s seventh shot of the game.
It was the final shot Vokoun faced, as Coach Dale Hunter pulled the veteran netminder immediately after the tally and brought in Michal Neuvirth in an effort to shake up the team.
“Change momentum more than anything and slow down the game and get Neuvy in and just change momentum,” Hunter said when asked why he gave Vokoun the hook so quickly.
The alteration didn’t have the desired effect, as the Capitals were decidedly flat for the duration of the contest.
The trends illustrated in those first five-plus minutes, where Washington didn’t protect the puck, failed to chase it down to gain possession or win battles along the boards, extended long after the change in net.
A turnover in the offensive zone late in the period, caused by Alex Ovechkin knocking the puck off Brouwer’s stick and breaking up the start of a cycle, sent the Hurricanes the other direction on another odd-man rush. Andreas Nodl fired a one-timer past Neuvirth with 29 seconds left before the intermission to make it 3-0.