Not Tonight – A night after coming back from a 2-1 deficit to forge a 4-3 shootout victory against archrival Pittsburgh on home ice, the Caps sought a repeat performance against the Hurricanes in Carolina. This time, the Caps came up on the short end of a 3-2 shootout decision.
For the third straight game, the Caps spent a good bit of the first period hemmed into their own end of the ice. Carolina’s forwards came out with energy and jump, and Washington took an early penalty for the second straight night.
With Alexander Semin in the penalty box for interference, the Hurricanes drew first blood on defenseman Jamie McBain’s shot from center point. Carolina padded its lead later in the first when blueliner Bryan Rodney’s wrist shot from the high slot eluded Caps goalie Semyon Varlamov.
Making his first start in a week and his fifth since the Olympic break, Varlamov settled in nicely thereafter. He kept the Caps close, but Washington’s offense wasn’t able to get on track against veteran Carolina goaltender Manny Legace and the Canes’ youthful bunch of blueliners.
“We weren’t ready to play,” laments Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “Suffice it to say that in the first 10 minutes we were leaving our poor goalie out to dry. I don’t know if that happens when you play an emotional game the night before. I thought the last two periods we picked it up pretty good, but at the same time you can’t come from behind to win every night.
Washington finished the night with 43 shots on goal, but didn’t get much return on its offensive investment. Thursday’s game marked the 13th time this season that Washington has managed 40 or more shots on goal, but it’s the first time in those 13 games that the Capitals have been limited to less than three goals.
If there was a bright spot to the loss, it was the play of Varlamov. He stopped 29 of the 31 shots he faced on the night, holding the opposition to fewer than three goals for the first time in a span of six starts.
“He played great,” says Boudreau of Varlamov’s performance. “If I were him, I’d feel pretty good about myself.”
Shoot First, Ask Questions Later – Washington fired a whopping total of 104 shots in the 65 minutes leading up to Thursday’s shootout conclusion. The Caps had 43 shots on goal, they had 35 shots blocked, and they missed the net with 26 tries.
Carolina, by comparison, teed up barely half as many. The Canes launched 54 shots. They had 31 on goal, 13 that were blocked and 10 that missed.
Washington poured exactly half – 52 – of its shot tries on Carolina after the start of the third. In the game’s final period and overtime, the Caps had 18 shots on goal. Carolina defenders blocked 19 Capital shots and Washington missed the mark 15 times.
Only three of Carolina’s 18 skaters – Ray Whitney, Drayson Bowman and Tom Kostopoulos – were not credited with at least one blocked shot in the game.
First – Caps defenseman John Carlson scored his first NHL goal at 2:12 of the third period. The goal evened the scored at 2-2 and enabled the Caps to get out of Carolina with a point.
“He’s come close on numerous occasions,” says Boudreau. “He was due to have a goal.”
Carlson’s blueline partner John Erskine moved the puck to Jason Chimera in the Washington end. The swift winger scooted up the left wing wall and gained the Carolina line before feeding Carlson, who had joined the rush in the middle of the ice. Carlson’s shot got through Legace, giving the rookie his first goal in his 18th game.
“The more I think about it, I wasn’t really open too much to be honest,” Carlson says. “But it’s just one of those things when you see an opportunity like that, they don’t come around too often. Just go with the flow, and I got a little bit lucky.”
Carlson was plus-1 on the night. He moves to plus-12 on the season, tied for second among all NHL rookies and trailing only Nashville’s Cody Franson (plus-26).
Season Series – Thursday’s game concluded the season’s series between the Caps and the Canes. Four of the games went to overtime and one to a shootout. Each team took two of the extra-session games and each team won once in regulation.
Green On The Blueline – Of the six defensemen dressed for Carolina in Thursday night’s game, only two had more than 50 games worth of NHL experience going into the game.
At the ripe old age of 26, Joni Pitkanen is the Cane’s most experienced defender. He came into Thursday’s game with 404 career NHL games under his belt. Pitkanen is followed by ex-Cap blueliner Brian Pothier at 353 games.
The rest of the Canes’ blueline corps is manned by a quartet of rookies: Brett Carson (50 games), Jay Harrison (49), Rodney (21) and McBain (five).
On The Board – Rodney’s goal was also his first in the NHL. The 25-year-old undrafted free agent has been toiling in the ECHL and AHL for the better part of five seasons. He got his first taste of NHL action with the Canes last season.
Swift Start – McBain has two goals and six points in his first six NHL games. The 22-year-old native of Edina, Minn. played his college hockey at the University of Wisconsin before turning pro late last season.
McBain is the first member of the Whalers/Hurricanes organization to record a point in each of his first four NHL games in more than 30 years. He is the first NHL defenseman to achieve that feat since Ryan Whitney did it for Pittsburgh from Nov. 1-7, 2005.
Rearguard Rarity – McBain and Rodney became just the second pair of rookie blueliner teammates to tally in the same game this season. Michael Del Zotto and Matt Gilroy of the New York Rangers have done so twice in the same contest this season.
McBain and Rodney join Stu Smith and Mickey Volcan (Jan. 14, 1981) and Sylvain Cote and Mark Paterson (Dec. 26, 1984) as the only two pairs of rookie blueliners to score in the same game in Hartford/Carolina franchise history.
Happy Birthday – To a trio of former Capitals: Ted Bulley, born on this day in 1955; Andrei Nikolishin, born on this day in 1973, and Dwight Schofield, born on March 25, 1956.
By The Numbers – Brendan Morrison reached 30 assists in a season for the eighth time in his NHL career … Morrison was Washington’s top draw man, taking 11 of 15 (73%) on the night … Alex Ovechkin had six shots on goal, but also had seven blocked and missed five times … Steckel and Mike Green led the Caps with five hits each … McBain (seven) and Pothier (six) paced the Canes in blocked shots ... The Caps set a single-season franchise record by notching their 109th point of the season.
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