By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 19, 2010; D03
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Eric Fehr scored with 9.5 seconds remaining in regulation, and in the process, reached the 20-goal plateau for the first time in his career. But instead of celebrating his milestone in the visitors' dressing room at RBC Center, the Washington Capitals' winger and his teammates were left lamenting one they let slip from their grasp.
Ray Whitney capitalized on a defensive mix-up late in overtime, then blasted a shot through Semyon Varlamov to lift the Carolina Hurricanes to a 4-3 victory and avenge an overtime defeat by the same score eight days earlier in Washington.
"We got a point where we should have gotten two [points]," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "There were a lot of guys tonight who didn't do the right thing. I don't know what happened in the third period. They started to feel it, and when you leave a team around long enough, they said, 'Well, we've got an opportunity here.' "
And the Hurricanes seized it -- with plenty of help from the visitors.
The Capitals took a 2-1 lead into the third period thanks to a pair of goals by former Hurricanes defenseman Joe Corvo, who made his return to Raleigh a memorable one. But Hurricanes rookie Brett Carson knotted the game at 2 when he blasted a point shot over Varlamov's blocker. The goal capped a sloppy sequence deep in Washington's end that began when Varlamov dropped a rebound.
With about 2 minutes 30 seconds remaining in regulation, Tomas Fleischmann failed to fire a rolling puck past Carolina rookie goalie Justin Peters.
"I just missed the puck," Fleischmann said. "I tried to give it everything I could, but I couldn't hit it."
One minute later, the Hurricanes made the Capitals pay for that missed opportunity when Chad LaRose scored a four-on-four breakaway to put the Hurricanes ahead, 3-2, with 1:35 left in regulation.
That's just about the time things got really interesting.
With Varlamov on the bench in favor of an extra attacker, Fehr took a nifty pass from Brendan Morrison in the slot and beat Peters to knot the game at 3 and force overtime. Moments later, Carolina fans who already had left their seats began streaming back down the aisles.
"At the time it was a pretty big goal," Fehr said. "Unfortunately, it didn't help us get the win."
It did, however, help Washington take back the momentum. But the Capitals mustered only one shot on goal in the extra session and Whitney made the most of his only opportunity. After taking a pass from Eric Staal in the corner, the shifty veteran circled while looking to pass. But when a seam opened up, he stepped between the circles and fired a shot off Varlamov's arm and into the net with 57.3 seconds left.
"It should have been a switch between a defenseman," Boudreau said. "When it's four-on-four, it's man-on-man and one guy didn't switch. Then [Whitney] had all while middle of the ice."
Boudreau said he did not have any problem with the way Varlamov played the winner.
"It was a slap shot from between the circles," he said. "That's a tough one to stop. We obviously made a defensive error."
In addition to ruining Fehr's special night, Whitney's goal also spoiled Corvo's homecoming. About two weeks after being traded away, he reminded his former teammates and the Carolina crowd at RBC Center just how dangerous he can be at the other end of the ice.
After a scoreless first period, Corvo gave his new team a 1-0 lead only 30 seconds into the second period. Corvo crept down to the hash marks during a scramble around the Hurricanes' net and fired in a pass from Matt Bradley. The goal was Corvo's first since Nov. 30, a game in which as a member of the Hurricanes he suffered a gruesome gash from the skate of Karl Alzner.
Staal scored on a five-on-three moments later to tie the game at 1. Then Corvo restored the lead with a power-play shot from the same spot where he scored his first.
"It was exciting the way we tied the game up there," Corvo said. "But going into the third, you would like to think that we should be able to seal the deal."
Capitals notes: Alex Ovechkin sat out the second game of a two game suspension. The two-time MVP is eligible to return to the lineup Saturday at Tampa Bay. . . .
José Theodore will start in goal against the Lightning, Boudreau said. . . .
Quintin Laing, Tyler Sloan and John Erskine were healthy scratches. . . .
Boyd Gordon was sidelined after aggravating a back injury Tuesday. . . .
Boudreau said his NCAA basketball tournament bracket has West Virginia winning it all. "That's why Bruce isn't going to win," Brooks Laich said, referring to the locker room pool.