As Carolina Hurricanes forward Brock McGinn scored his team’s fifth and final goal of the night, the sellout crowd at PNC Arena, witnessing their first postseason game in a decade, erupted in unison. It was the same roar the Washington Capitals had heard all night, each signaling another Carolina surge and the struggling Capitals couldn’t keep up — at all.
In one of their worst performances of the season, the Capitals fell 5-0 to the Hurricanes Monday night at PNC Arena as Washington holds a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. The Hurricanes picked up their first win of the series thanks to a strong 3-0 Carolina start through two periods, with opening back-to-back goals from Carolina forward Warren Foegele. The Capitals were outshot 46-18, recording a mere one shot on net in the second period and seven in the third.
“We got to play better,” Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom said. “We got to come out and be a little more focused … that was just, yeah not our style of play. I think, I mean, it is just everything. Everything can be better. We didn’t execute anything.” Monday’s game was Carolina’s first home playoff game since 2009, and playing in front of a sellout crowd waving their white rally towels after spending a sunny Raleigh afternoon tailgating in the arena parking lot, the Hurricanes took full advantage.
Now, instead of having a chance to sweep the series during Game 4 Thursday in Carolina, the Capitals will face a Hurricanes squad with newfound momentum and a chance to even the series in front of an energized home base. Monday’s dominant victory for Carolina was both a heavy disappointment for the Capitals and a rejuvenating win for a Carolina team that had emphasized the importance of not falling into a 3-0 series hole.
Washington now has a 1-9 franchise record in Game 3s after taking a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven series.
Though, the Capitals are still holding a one-game advantage and the experienced group has firsthand experience of the wild momentum swings the playoffs can bring. The Capitals remain confident in their group.
“I think we learned from last year,” Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said. “We’ve been in bad situations … we stick together. Game by game. Win or lose, we forget it and move forward.”
But on Monday, it was all Carolina.
The fiery game, filled with big hits and scrums involving both sides, opened with Foegele scoring the first goal of the night at the 9:43 mark to give the Hurricanes their first lead in the series. However, the Hurricanes’ goal was overshadowed with the biggest fight of the series just over a minute later, with Ovechkin landing several hard blows to knockout Carolina rookie Andrei Svechnikov after the two dropped gloves.
“He’s never fought in his life, and I'm pretty sure Ovi knew that,” Carolina Coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “So that stuff bothers me.”
Ovechkin, who has now been involved in only four fights in his career, challenged Svechnikov to the fight after the young 19-year-old Russian cross-checked Ovechkin several times in front of Washington’s net. After Ovechkin delivered the knockout blow, Svechnikov was slow to get off the ice and had to be helped to the dressing room. He was ruled out for the remainder of the game. The last time Ovechkin was involved in a fight prior to Monday was December 2010.
"It was big for him showing his emotion, I mean he plays hard,” goaltender Braden Holtby said regarding Ovechkin. “Against a kid that kind of, you know, takes a lot of cheap shots and that kind of thing, it was, you know, playoff hockey, but the biggest thing was that we didn’t respond very well after it. We kind of wasted that energy he created and if it happens again we won’t sit back.”
The chippy start continued through the end of the first and into the second period, but it was Carolina controlled the pace of the game and capitalized on its chances. Foegele’s second goal of the night came just over six minutes into the second period and forward Dougie Hamilton scored on the power play with a wrister at the top of the circle with 8:20 left in the second to stretch the Carolina lead, 3-0.
Carolina had emphasized a quick start for Game 3 as a crucial key to victory after the Capitals had both 3-0 and 2-0 leads the last two games. This time the tables were turned, and Washington had no answer.
Even without Svechnikov — or forward Michael Ferland (upper body) after he exited the ice midway through the first period — the Capitals were unable to win the battle in the offensive zone, or on special teams. Washington was 0-for-4 on the power play and Hamilton’s two power play goals gave Carolina the heavy 2-for-5 tilt.
The second period furthered exemplified the Capitals inefficiencies in their overall game on the ice. With Washington only recording one shot on goal, it was a team record for the fewest in a period for a road playoff game. It broke the record for the old record of two, which occurred twice.
The third period didn’t prove to be any more efficient, with the Capitals only recording seven shots on goal, with the majority coming in the final minutes of the game. And as Hamilton’s second power player goal of the night went through the net and McGinn scored the last goal of the night, the Capitals exited PNC Arena, ready to put Monday behind them and move onto Game 4.
Game 4, best-of-seven (Washington leads, 2-1)
Thursday, 7 p.m.
TV: SN360, NBCSWA
Radio: 106.7 FM
Thursday, April 11: Washington 4, Carolina 2
Saturday, April 13: Washington 4, Carolina 3, OT
Monday, April 15: Carolina 5, Washington 0
Thursday, April 18: Washington at Carolina, 7 p.m.
Saturday, April 20: Carolina at Washington, TBA
x-Monday, April 22: Washington at Carolina, TBA
x-Wednesday, April 24: Carolina at Washington, TBA