In this recent stretch where the Caps have ripped off five wins in their last seven outings, we have seen many signs of the team-game head coach Adam Oates has been designing. On Tuesday night his charges delivered what has to be considered very close to a complete game in the form of a 3-0 win over division-rival Carolina.
The Hurricanes are never an easy out for the Capitals and they weren’t on this occasion. It just seemed like the home team was able to exert its will over their guests, and were it not for a very strong goaltending performance from Cam Ward, Washington could have won this one in a rout.
Braden Holtby was picture-perfect for the second time this season. He finished the night with 33 saves and perhaps the most important one came in the first few minutes of the game.
While the Caps were skating with a power play, Eric Staal and former Caps gunner Alex Semin broke in alone 2-on-0 shorthanded. Semin took a lead pass from Staal and tried to lift a shot on his forehand over the glove of Holtby. He failed to raise the puck high enough and the crowd roared with approval when Braden turned Semin away empty.
Caps fans rained boos on Semin whenever he touched the puck. Their cheers were saved for the next power-play chance for Washington.
Another pinpoint passing display from Alex Ovechkin and Mike Ribeiro set the table for a re-direct in front by Nicklas Backstrom. Nick’s best goal totals of his career have come against Carolina, and he made no mistake at 7:21 of the first period.
John Erskine would advance the lead by one in the middle frame. After Backstrom brought the puck smoothly into the offensive zone, he looked for a trailer and found big #4.
Erskine uncorked a slapshot from about 30 feet that zipped past Ward, who was partially screened by Semin.
The Hurricanes’ Ward was particularly tough on his namesake, Joel Ward, in the second period. He made one diving glove save that robbed Joel of what appeared to be a sure goal.
Since the lead was only two, it never felt like the Canes were out of it—even if the Capitals were carrying the play and closing in on 40 shots for the game.
The insurance goal for Washington would come in the final frame. Mathieu Perreault, Joel Ward, and Eric Fehr were grinding the Canes into a pulp with their cycle game along the boards, when John Carlson would step in from point-position to drill the rebound of a Perreault bid past the Hurricane netminder with 8:32 to go in the game.
From there the Caps kept the Canes off the board and away from Holtby, who received first-star honors for the shutout effort.
The Capitals are right back in business Wednesday in Philadelphia. It will be a 7:30 p.m. start time from Wells Fargo Center that you can check out on Comcast SportsNet.