Tonight's meeting with the Southeastern Conference rival Carolina Hurricanes was significant in more ways than one. These two teams have already met on several occasions but tonight the Caps faced a much different Hurricanes club than they saw earlier in the season. The Canes were struggling early in the season and by the midway point, they were near the bottom of the totem pole in the league standings. But this vastly improved team blew into Verizon Center with an 8-2-0 record, one of the best in the NHL over the last 10 games. Carolina is also the last team to beat Washington in regulation at home back on December 28. Add to that the recent flipping of personnel between the two teams (former Canes Joe Corvo and Scott Walker to Washington and Brian Pothier to Carolina), and all the elements were in place for a doozy of a hockey game! Speaking of Brian Pothier, he just does not look right in that Hurricanes jersey for some reason. Kind of like Hockey Mom can't wear orange and black (or black and gold) - I can't imagine why? There's also a fabulous piece on Pothier and the trade over at DC Sports Bog today.
Jose Theodore got the start in net for the Caps and faced fellow veteran Manny Legace between the pipes for Carolina. It didn't take long for the boys in red sweaters to score in the first period as Alex Semin took a feed from young d-man John Carlson and flipped a beauty of a backhander over the shoulder of the Canes' net minder. The Caps took two penalties in the first period and the penalty kill unit was successful in keeping Carolina off the board on both power plays. Washington's scary good power play unit lit the lamp for the second time as Mike Green scored at the 17:59 mark. Green had a bit of an "oopsie" at the mid point of the period as he tripped Brandon Sutter, who was blazing to score on a breakaway. Sutter got an early Christmas present in the form of a penalty shot, but it was Theo playing Scrooge and shutting the door on the Canes. Patrick Dwyer tallied for the Canes in the waning minutes of the opening stanza to get the visitors within one. End of first period: Caps 2 - Canes 1
Carolina got on the board first early in the second period with a full-strength slap shot from Tuomo Ruutu (yes, the brother of pesky pest Jarko Ruutu, or I should say the "better looking" brother of Jarko) that whipped past Jose Theodore. The Ruutu goal happened courtesy of an ugly pass through the middle by the Caps' defense, namely Mike Green. But as Alexandre Picard went to the sin bin for tripping, Green made good and netted his second goal of the evening on the resulting power play. Later in the second, former Hurricane Scott Walker gave his pals from Raleigh the man-advantage when he was whistled for clipping. Yep, pretty much the same call as they make in football:
45.1 Clipping - Clipping is the act of throwing the body, from any direction, across or below the knees of an opponent. A player or goalkeeper may not deliver a check in a “clipping” manner, nor lower his own body position to deliver a check on or below an opponent’s knees.
Well gosh darn if that penalty didn't lead to a Carolina power play goal from Jussi Jokinen to tie it up.
End of second period: Capitals 3 - Canes 3
The third period saw a big burst of intensity in the hits and Manny Legace (all in fun, Manny's a Hockey Mom favorite) doing his best flounder imitation as he left his net and flip-flopped to try get back in position. Tuomo Ruutu also felt the wrath of Ovi as he was the recipient of some blistering hits from the Great8.
Unfortunately the third period didn't feature any additional scoring from either home or visitor so this one headed into sudden death overtime. During the frenzied 4-on-4 Ovi peppered Legace with shots in a valiant effort to score the game winner. But it was team mate Tomas Fleischmann who blew the wind out the sails of the Canes with the game winning goal. New kid on the block Eric Berlanger made a perfect cross ice pass to Flash, who deftly deposited the puck with a sizzling wrist shot to send the hard-working Hurricanes packing. Final Score: Caps 4 - Canes 3