Caps rally again to top Hurricanes

Caps rally again to top Hurricanes
March 15, 2013, 1:45 am
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Capitals - Hurricanes highlights 3.14

The Capitals and Hurricanes have notoriously played a number of very close games throughout their years of Southeast Division activity.  The first two games of their season series in 2013 were not the norm—with each team recording one-sided, shutout wins.  Thursday night at PNC Arena was more in-line with past history, as the Caps battled back for a 3-2 victory.

The game did not start well for Washington.  Michal Neuvirth was making his first start in goal since Feb. 7 in Pittsburgh and old friend Alex Semin spoiled his welcome back to the crease-party.

Semin stashed a short-range shot through Neuvirth at 1:14 of the opening frame.  Eric Staal and Jiri Tlusty picked up the assists, as that trio continued to be a major scoring threat.

The Hurricanes would improve their first-period lead thanks to Pat Dwyer.  Tim Gleason swept the puck from his left-point position to Dwyer who was cutting across the rink laterally, approximately 30 feet from the goal.  Dwyer deflected the puck on goal and the change of pace and direction enabled it to squirt past the Caps netminder at 8:17.

Two nights ago Justin Peters blanked the Caps inside Verizon Center.  Dan Ellis took the Carolina goalie chores on this evening and he would not be as successful.

Aaron Volpatti was very instrumental in helping the visitors hack away at the lead.  The hard-working winger chipped a puck down the left-wing boards to himself.  He then sent a powerful cross-crease pass right to the stick blade of Joey Crabb, who was racing toward Ellis. Crabb snapped home his second goal of the year at 5:56 of the middle frame and the Caps had hope.

Eric Staal was tagged with a high-sticking penalty at the 20:00 mark of the second period and that would give Washington a golden opportunity to strike right off the bat in period three.

With the Caps on the power play, Nicklas Backstrom threw a centering pass that was deflected by the Hurricanes goalie.  The puck thankfully bounced just right for Troy Brouwer, who wisely spotted Alex Ovechkin approaching the cage on the weak side of the penalty killers.  The Capital captain had a wide-open goal to bury his 10th of the year only 61 seconds into the third period.

Capitals defensemen Steve Oleksy and John Carlson pulled lots of “double-duty” after Tomas Kundratek was lost to a first-period lower body injury.  They were very solid in their performance, as was Neuvirth who finished with a save total of 36 for the game.

The outcome was in doubt with three minutes left in regulation and the score knotted at two.

That’s when Carlson hit Ovechkin with a pretty pass just as the winger was breaking into the clear behind Hurricane defenders.  As Ovechkin deked to his forehand, Ellis dropped to his stomach and stretched out his left leg pad.  Alex’s initial shot rattled off the post and lay on the goal-line.  Mike Ribeiro managed to poke the puck entirely across the goal-line in the estimation of referee Chris Rooney, who was in perfect position to see it.

The play went to video review in Toronto and it was confirmed that the puck had completely crossed the line, giving the Caps a 3-2 lead with 2:16 remaining in regulation time.

The Canes pulled Ellis for an extra skater with about 1:35 left.  Semin had two more good looks on goal that either missed wide or were blocked by Washington defenders.

Backstrom was whistled for holding Jordan Staal with only 16 seconds to go.  The Hurricanes were skating 6-on-4 for the balance of time, but did not convert.

Washington, having snapped a three-game losing streak, makes its way to Boston for a 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon exchange with the Bruins.  We’ll see you then on Comcast SportsNet.