Gold: Caps turn tables, rout Canes, 6-0

April 21, 2019 GMT

What’s good for the goose…

Last Monday, starting at a 2-0 series deficit, the Carolina Hurricanes came out flying, hit everything that moved in a Washington Capitals sweater, and dominated a 5-0 game to get on the board in the series. Saturday night, in Washington, the defending Stanley Cup champions responded to being beaten — largely at their own game — twice with a thorough thrashing of their own. The final score was 6-0, and it’s pretty indicative of how things went.

The fallout, however, is that the Caps have a 3-2 series lead and sit one game away from shutting out the lights on the Hurricanes for 2019.

We can sit around all day and count the mistakes, complain about some questionable officiating, an anemic power play or lament the fact that Carolina is without three of their top-9 forwards. But, the bottom line is that the Capitals played like the team that needed the game and the Hurricanes didn’t. Just like Carolina got the better of the Caps in Game 3.

Jaccob Slavin uncharacteristically turned the puck over at the Washington blue line leading to the first goal. What hurts is that the Canes were 20 seconds from killing off a Washington power play when Slavin tried a diagonal pass that was intercepted by Alex Ovechkin. Five seconds later, Nicklas Backstrom deposited his own rebound for a 1-0 lead.

From there, it just got worse.

The Canes were actually really good for the first dozen or so minutes of the second period. They applied enough pressure to force the Caps into the penalty box three times. But, the first two power plays were anything but. The third was fine, at least in that it generated a few shots on goal, and maybe Carolina could siphon some momentum out of it and even the score.

Warren Foegele, who’s been great so far in this series, gave the puck away leading to another Backstrom goal with about 5 1/2 minutes left in the second. Then, 1:50 later, came the play that summed up the evening for the Hurricanes.

Dougie Hamilton gave up on a play behind his own goal, Ovechkin got to the puck, whipped it out in front to a streaking Brett Connolly who snapped it over Petr Mrazek for a 3-0 lead and the game was effectively over. All that remained was accounting.

One of two things happened on the play. Either Hamilton thought icing was, or should have been, called. Or, Dougie didn’t want to suffer a full speed hit by Ovechkin against the boards and chose instead to defend after the fact.

There are problems with each theory. Icing was clearly NOT called by either linesman. One signaled that the puck was tipped by Ovechkin and the other emphatically waved icing off. Granted, Hamilton was ahead of the play and probably didn’t see either’s call. But, if Dougie thought it was icing, he’d have heard a whistle once he passed the hashmarks (he didn’t) or he’d have said something to one of the officials (he didn’t).

Either way, at some point Hamilton realized it wasn’t icing and then it just got worse. He pulled off going for the puck, allowing Ovechkin to get there first and then didn’t do much to challenge the pass in front to Connolly. To be fair, neither did Teuvo Teravainen or Slavin, who were loitering in front of Mrazek on the play.

Sometimes you have to be willing take a hit to make a play. It appeared to me that Hamilton wasn’t, so he didn’t. It was either a mental mistake or a physical one and both are bad to varying degrees.

Now, let’s be clear. Dougie Hamilton is one of the chief reasons that the Carolina Hurricanes are in the playoffs and he’s got four points in the series, so he’s played well. This one play will not define him and I don’t believe he’ll struggle to recover from it. This play was just indicative of the way the Hurricanes played.

Mental mistakes combined with physical mistakes multiplied by an inspired, proud, talented opponent turned out to equal a 6-0 blowout loss on national television. Come Monday, the Hurricanes have to be smarter, stronger, more poised and be first to the fight. If not, we’ll likely see more of what happened in Washington.

* Sebastian Aho has scored one goal since March 9. One. It came in Game 2 of this series. There is just no way Carolina advances without Aho being great. He hasn’t been anything close to great. If you’re looking for a good sign, he did have seven shots on goal and a few of them were in tight. So, maybe he’s close.

* Nino Niederreiter has just one assist — on the Teuvo Teravainen game-winner Thursday night — and eight shots on goal in the series. He’s been great since arriving in the trade from Minnesota, racking up 14 goals and 30 points in 36 games. He averaged roughly three shots per game since arriving but half that in the series.

* For the second straight game the Hurricanes had a player in the line up who had not played in the NHL all year. In Game 4 it was Patrick Brown, though Brown did have NHL experience a couple of years ago. Saturday night it was rookie Aleksi Saarela, who played 9:10 in his NHL debut. Saarela, who scored 30 goals for the Charlotte Checkers this year, was called up when Jordan Martinook was injured on Thursday.

* Carolina’s power play was 0 for (Game) 5. Carolina’s penalty kill was 1 for 4. But, if you think about it, the Nic Dowd penalty shot goal is kind of like a power play, so call it 1 for (Game) 5. Brutal.

* According to the web site NaturalStatTrick.com, Carolina had just six “high danger” chances all game. Washington had 16 — one of which was NOT the Ovechkin power play rifle from above the circles.

* Andrei Svechnikov skated again today, wearing the non-contact yellow jersey. There is a chance he can play Monday night, but he has yet to clear the concussion protocol. There is no word on whether or not Jordan Martinook or Michael Ferland will be available.

* Game 6 at PNC Arena is Monday night at 7:00