“I know the guys might be searching for answers for you guys after a game too and I understand that. If I thought a team was outplaying us drastically then I would say yeah, but I don’t feel that way.” Adam Oates, after 4-0 loss to Carolina
Little went well for the Washington Capitals Tuesday night in the Verizon Center, and as a result a lot went well for the visiting Carolina Hurricanes, who trounced the home team by a margin of 4-0 in a Southeast Division matchup. Carolina’s Justin Peters earned his second career shutout, and second against Washington, while the Caps’ Braden Holtby turned aside 32 of 35 in his ninth loss of the season.
Former Capital Joe Corvo scored the game-winner less than four minutes into the game, while Washington captain Alex Ovechkin continued his brief slump, failing to record a shot in the losing effort.
Corvo’s strike was a demoralizing moment for the home team. Chasing the puck below Washington’s goal line, Corvo curled and snapped the puck high at the net, where it caromed off the back of Holtby’s helmet into the goal. Erstwhile Capital Alexander Semin earned an assist on the go-ahead goal, as did ‘Canes captain Eric Staal.
Washington wasn’t able to manufacture much sustained offense after Corvo’s goal, while Carolina’s Riley Nash was the beneficiary of outstanding hustle play by his teammates to net his second and third goals of the season in Tuesday night’s second period.
Nash’s first goal was a deflection of defenseman Jay Harrison’s shot from the left half-boards. The shot and tip were a result of a frantic sequence in the Capitals’ end, in which Washington’s defenders were no match for Carolina’s cycle game and one Caps player lost his stick.
Thirteen minutes later, in the waning minutes of the middle frame, Nash potted his second goal of the game after Patrick Dwyer outhustled Jeff Schultz on a potential icing. Schultz’s teammates were slow getting back to the play, and Dwyer fed Nash wide open in front of the net for a one-timed snap shot over Holtby’s glove.
Dwyer finished the scoring with a shorthanded, empty net goal with 81 seconds left in regulation to blunt Washington’s faint hopes for a comeback.
Although they couldn’t finish, Washington was not bereft of opportunities. Marcus Johansson misfired on an open net two minutes into the game, and shortly after Corvo’s goal, Eric Fehr had a similarly open chance in front of Carolina’s net that he fired directly into Peters.
Midway through the second period the Caps had another golden opportunity when Troy Brouwer had a chance to half their two-goal deficit. On the penalty kill, he stripped a Carolina defenseman of the puck and raced in on a breakaway on Peters. Brouwer’s backhand shot was also turned aside by Peters, who only faced 26 shots in the game and no more than 10 in any single period.
Veteran defenseman John Erskine was placed on Injured Reserve earlier Tuesday afternoon, necessitating the first NHL appearance from rookie Cameron Schilling. The young Schilling was paired with another recent call-up, Steven Olesky, appearing in just his fifth career NHL game. Olesky continued his strong play in the red-and-white, earning a decisive victory in his first NHL fight, against Drayson Bowman.
Washington won’t have to wait long for the rubber match against the ‘Canes, as they visit Raleigh on Thursday night. The Caps sit ten points behind Carolina for the Southeast Division lead, and seven points back of the eighth and final playoff spot. With only 23 games left in the campaign, this season is all but lost, but the team’s response on Thursday on the road will be a strong statement about their resiliency and pride, something which hasn’t been on display often this spring.
Abram Fox is the Washington Capitals Page Editor for District Sports Page. He has been covering the Capitals from the press box since the 2007-08 season.