Jeff Skinner notched his second hat trick in the last 29 days to help the Carolina Hurricanes to their third win at Verizon Center in as many visits this season, a 4-3 overtime triumph over the Capitals on Thursday. Skinner completed the hat trick by netting the game-winner at 1:20 of the extra session to send Washington to its third straight defeat (0-1-2) and its seventh in its last 10 games (3-3-4).
In what has been a too frequent occurrence this season, the Caps let a winnable game get away from them.
“It’s one of those things,” says Washington defenseman Steve Oleksy. “I think everyone in this dressing room, everyone that is a part of this team and this organization all know that we have to play better hockey. We are not playing our best hockey, but we are finding a way to get some points in the mix.
“Obviously, we have had some games that we probably should have had two points, but you are still getting some valuable points. At the end of the day, we know that we have a lot more to give, and we are going to figure it out and we are going to turn it around here.”
With three of its four forward lines having taken on a different look since an 0-1-1 weekend road trip in which it scored just two goals on a combined 85 shots on net,
Washington came out strong in the first period of Thursday’s game.
The Caps poured pucks toward the Carolina net where a rusty Anton Khudobin was making his first NHL start since Oct. 13. Khudobin showed an early propensity for allowing rebounds, but the Caps weren’t able to make good on any second chance opportunities, either.
Washington shot itself in the foot just after the midpoint of the first when it was assessed a bench minor penalty for too many men on the ice at 11:44. A mere 38 seconds into that kill, Caps forward Brooks Laich was sent off for hi-sticking Canes winger Alexander Semin.
Carolina’s Jeff Skinner made the Caps pay for their transgressions, netting a goal on the two-man advantage to give the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead at 13:27 of the first.
The second period started with five minutes of pure firewagon hockey. The two teams combined for five goals – all at even strength – in the first 4:34 of the frame. And weaved in among the five lamplighters was a failed penalty shot, too. The five tallies and the failed penalty shot all came in a span of just 3:45.
Caps’ captain Alex Ovechkin started the scoring spree with his 31st of the season just 49 seconds after the puck dropped to start the second period. Cutting down the right side of the ice, Ovechkin adroitly used Canes defenseman Ron Hainsey as a screen and fired a wrist shot past Khudobin on the short side to make it a 1-1 game.
Carolina needed just 55 seconds to respond. The Canes broke out of their own end on a 2-on-1 rush. Manny Malhotra carried into the Washington zone and opted to shoot, beating Washington goaltender high on the short side to put the Canes back on top 2-1 at 1:44 of the middle frame.
Seventy-eight seconds after Malhotra’s goal, the Caps drew even again. Washington finally cashed in on one of the many rebounds Khudobin left lying around in front of the Carolina cage, Troy Brouwer doing the honors. Marcus Johansson fed Nicklas Backstrom in front, and Khudobin stopped his shot. But Brouwer was there to collect the loose change and deposit it high into the goal to make it a 2-2 game at the 3:02 mark.
Just 38 seconds after Brouwer’s goal, Ovechkin was awarded a penalty shot after being hauled down on a breakaway. The Caps captain skated in and attempted to deke, but lost control of the puck and it skidded away before he could squeeze off any kind of a shot.
A mere 14 seconds after Ovechkin was unable to give the Caps their first lead of the night, Steve Oleksy took care of that chore. Jay Beagle won an offensive zone draw back to Oleksy at the right point, and the blueliner skated all the way around the Carolina net unimpeded. He came out around the opposite side and let go of a wrist shot from the lower region of the circle that beat Khudobin to the glove side.
It was Oleksy’s second goal of the season and Beagle’s second assist of the campaign.
As has been the case far too often this season, Washington simply could not stand the prosperity. The Caps’ lone lead of the night was gone in 40 seconds.
Carolina came up ice on a 3-on-2 rush. Blueliner Ryan Murphy fired a shot, and Grubauer made the stop. But the rebound rolled right past a pair of Caps defenders and directly to Skinner, who rifled a shot over Grubauer’s right shoulder from in tight to make it a 3-3 game.
The two teams caught their breath and the offensive eruptions were quelled for the remainder of regulation.
Washington had some good early chances in the extra session, and it was pressing again just past the one-minute mark. Ovechkin and Mikhail Grabovski were puck down low in the offensive zone, and Ovechkin threw a pass to space from the right wing half wall. Caps defenseman Dmitry Orlov jumped up to receive it, but when Murphy got there first and pokechecked it away, it put three Capitals on the wrong side of the puck and sent the Canes off on a 3-on-1 jailbreak with Murphy carrying. The blueliner showed great poise and patience, and then he threaded a perfect pass to Skinner who easily buried it for the win.
“Ah, it’s a great pass,” says Skinner. “It bounces up to [Murphy], we’ve got a three-on-one and he sort of threads it through [Caps defenseman Mike Green’s] legs, and I just had to sort of put my stick there, and it bounced off my stick and in. It’s a heck of a pass. It’s a great play by him.”
The Caps fired 72 shot attempts on the night to 58 for Carolina, and Washington outshot the Hurricanes by 39-26 at even strength in the game.
“We had 40 shots,” notes Caps coach Adam Oates. “We did a lot of good things; we outshot them 10-0 at the start of the game. Then we get a too-many-men penalty and then they get a 5-on-3 and score. We only had one power-play in the game which I was surprised at but we did a lot of good things in the game.”
Tighten Up – Washington still remains in second place in the Metropolitan Division, two points ahead of third-place Philadelphia. The Capitals are now just six points clear of seventh-place Columbus in the division standings, and the Caps will visit the Blue Jackets twice later this month.
Washington plays 10 of its next 14 games on the road, starting with Saturday night’s visit to Minnesota. The game against the Wild is the Capitals’ first contest outside the Eastern time zone in nearly two months, since a 4-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche in Denver on Nov. 10.
Number Nine – Tonight’s penalty shot was the ninth of Ovechkin’s career and his second this season. He has converted only two of the nine (22.2%). Ovechkin has had nearly one fifth (nine of 52) of the penalty shots in Washington’s 39-season franchise history.
Ovechkin’s two penalty shot goals came on successive attempts, the sixth and seventh of his NHL career. His most recent penalty shot tally came on Oct. 9, 2010 against New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur at Verizon Center.
Many Too Many – Twice in Thursday’s game the Capitals allowed the Canes to score within less than a minute of a Washington tally. During the first half (41 games) of the 2013-14 season, the Caps have now surrendered 20 goals that have come 120 seconds or less after a Washington goal.
“I don’t know how you explain it,” says Caps forward Brooks Laich. “You go on the ice after a goal, your responsibility is to keep that momentum for us – that’s every line, that’s the defensemen – we’re aware of it, [and] it’s talked about on the bench. For whatever reason we are not executing it. It’s something that is causing us to lose hockey games; costing us wins.”
Those 20 goals against account for more than one-sixth (20 of 119) of Washington’s total number of goals against this season.
Shooting Gallery – For the third straight game, the Capitals recorded 35 or more shots on goal, registering 41 in Thursday’s game. It’s the first time in more than three years they’ve notched 35 or more shots on goal in as many as three consecutive games.
From Dec. 2-11, 2010 the Caps totaled 35 or more shots in five straight games, going 0-4-1 in the process. Those five losses came in the midst of Washington’s notorious five-game losing streak during the filming of HBO’s “24/7” show that documented the Capitals that month as they prepared to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2011 Winter Classic.
This time around, the Caps are also winless (0-1-2) in each of the games during their spree of three straight games with 35 or more shots on net.
Smokin’ Guns – The Brouwer and Oleksy goals came 52 seconds apart, marking the fourth time this season that the Capitals have struck for a pair of goals in less than a minute.
Second Helpings – Washington scored all three of its goals in the second period on Thursday, marking the seventh time in its last dozen games that it has had a multiple-goal outburst in the middle period of the contest.
The Capitals have had 14 multiple-goal second periods this season, more than they’ve managed in the first period (four) and the third period (seven) combined in 2013-14.
Over their last dozen games, more than half (20 of 35) of Washington’s goals have been scored in the middle stanza of the game.
Bad, Bad Bench – Washington’s first-period bench minor was its sixth of the season, tied for third most in the NHL in 2013-14.
Two-Man Trouble – The Caps have allowed two 5-on-3 power play goals against this season, and both of them have come at Verizon Center against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Semin scored the only other 5-on-3 goal against Washington this season in the Canes’ first visit to Verizon Center this season on Oct. 10, a 3-2 Carolina win.
Hot Stuff – Skinner narrowly missed recording his first NHL hat trick when Carolina visited Verizon Center most recently, on Dec. 3. Skinner had two goals that night against Washington, and he notched his first career NHL hat trick two nights later against the Predators in Nashville.
In Thursday’s game, Skinner recorded his second NHL hat trick and he has now netted five goals in a span of two games for the second time in less than a month. Skinner scored twice in Carolina’s 5-4 overtime win over the Canadiens in Raleigh on Tuesday night.
Skinner now has five multiple-goal games in his last 14, and he has netted 15 goals in those 14 contests after scoring four goals in his first 16 games of the season, a respectable enough rate in itself.
Liles Debut – Defenseman John-Michael Liles made his Hurricanes debut on Thursday against the Capitals, one day after being obtained from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for veteran blueliner Tim Gleason and defense prospect Dennis Robertson.
Liles skated 15:45 on the night and finished at plus-2. He skated 1:13 while the Canes were shorthanded and 3:22 while they owned the man advantage.
By The Numbers – Washington won 41 of the game’s 74 face-offs (55%) … Orlov led Washington with 23:39 in ice time … Ten different Capitals skaters took at least one draw on the night; only four different Hurricanes skaters did so … Ovechkin led the Capitals with nine shots on net, 14 shot attempts and five hits … Justin Faulk led the Hurricanes with seven shots on goal … Semin led the Canes with four blocked shots.