Hurricanes 7, Capitals 2
Another goal by rookie Alex Ovechkin, and one gifted to them by a Carolina defenseman, wasn't nearly enough for the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night.
Carolina rallied twice from one-goal deficits early, then poured it on late at RBC Center, where the Hurricanes thumped the Capitals, 7-2, in front of 10,968.
"I thought we were in the game until the third," veteran defenseman Brendan Witt said. "We haven't been a very good third-period team. We're not willing to work. I don't think our work ethic is very good in the third."
Ovechkin gave the Capitals a 1-0 first-period lead, then in the second, Hurricanes defenseman Niclas Wallin mistakenly passed the puck into his own goal from center ice to put Washington ahead 2-1. Wallin attempted to pass the puck back to his goaltender, not realizing Cam Ward was headed to the bench because of a delayed penalty.
But instead of turning the game in Washington's favor, Wallin's gaffe motivated Carolina. Moments later, Eric Staal scored on the power play to tie the game at 2.
The inexperienced Capitals never recovered.
"It was big to go back out there after one of those fluke things," Carolina Coach Peter Laviolette said. "It was nice to see us immediately pick that one up for him."
Capitals Coach Glen Hanlon said: "Yeah, I thought it was a good game until the fourth goal. That was kind of a backbreaker."
Staal's goal was the first of six consecutive scores for Carolina, which tallied three times on seven power-play opportunities. The Capitals' power play, meantime, went 0 for 6 and their goalie, Olie Kolzig, made 19 saves before being pulled following the Hurricanes' sixth score.
"When you get a goal given to you, it's usually a good sign," left wing Jeff Friesen said. "We had some chances, but we have to find ways to execute those chances, especially on the power play."
The Capitals were without Jeff Halpern, their leader and one of their top offensive threats. He was observing Yom Kippur. And they were younger than usual on defense, with 20-year-old rookie Mike Green making his NHL debut.
But those two factors had little to do with the Capitals' third lopsided loss of the season. Last weekend, they suffered 7-3 and 8-1 drubbings at the hands of the Atlanta Thrashers. Carolina, meantime, hadn't scored seven goals at home since 2001.
One of the few highlights for the rebuilding Capitals continues to be the play of Ovechkin, who has four goals in five games. His first period score was, by far, his most spectacular.
The 20-year-old Russian blasted into the offensive zone on the right wing, knocked down a bouncing pass from Andrew Cassels, zipped past Carolina defenseman Jesse Boulerice, faked goalie Ward to the ice, then backhanded the puck over him. Ovechkin's momentum carried him into net.
Matt Cullen tied the game at 1 with a power-play goal about three minutes into the second period, breaking the Hurricanes' 0-for-17 power-play slump.
Wallin's own goal restored Washington's lead -- albeit briefly. (Dainius Zubrus, the last Capital to touch the puck, was credited with the goal.)
After Staal's game-tying goal, Carolina veteran defenseman Bret Hedican put the Hurricanes ahead, 3-2, with 1 minute 24 seconds left to play in the second period.
Erik Cole, Justin Williams, Rod Brind'Amour and Niklas Nordgren scored for Carolina in the third period. Capitals backup goaltender Brent Johnson relieved Kolzig after Brind'Amour's goal, which made the score 6-2.
Capitals Notes: Team officials are again hopeful of seeing Alexander Semin, one of the organization's top prospects, in a Capitals' uniform this season. Although when exactly that might happen remains as mysterious as the enigmatic left winger's absence.
Semin's Russian Super League team, Lada Togliatti, is slashing payroll, and the 21-year-old figures to be among the first casualties because he's the highest paid. Zubrus, who played alongside Semin for Lada Togliatti during the NHL lockout last winter, said Semin told him by phone Wednesday that he wants to return to Washington, but Russian military officials have not yet granted him a release from his service obligations. General Manager George McPhee, meantime, spoke to Semin on Tuesday to express the club's desire to have the electrifying goal scorer back.