Caps turn back Canes 4-2 in Metro Division game

calexander@newsobserver.comDecember 20, 2013 

— It was easy to point to the Washington Capitals' three power-play scores as the difference Friday in a 4-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. The Caps came into the Metropolitan Division game with the NHL's second-ranked power play and made the Canes pay for their penalties.

Special teams can determine close hockey games and they did Friday for the Caps. But so can the unpredictable roll of the puck.

With the Canes trailing 3-2 and less than seven minutes to play in regulation, forward Alexander Semin fired a shot from the left wing that Caps goalie Philipp Grubauer couldn't smother. The puck rolled on edge, missing the post by an inch or so as Canes fans at PNC Arena groaned.

That close.

"There's a few of those and sometimes they don't work out the way you them to," Canes center Jordan Staal said. "But obviously if our P.K. was better we would have found a way to win that game."

That is, the penalty kill. The Caps (19-13-3) scored three times in the second period on the power play, easily offsetting the five-on-five advantage the Hurricanes had during most of the game. Staal's even-strength goal in the first period gave the Canes a 1-0 lead.

"Five on five we were all over them," Staal said. "But the power play … you can't let that happen."

The Canes (14-14-7) killed off their first penalty of the game, an interference call against Eric Staal. But Eric Staal was called for high-sticking with 20 seconds left in the first period and the Caps were soon on a power-play roll in the second.

Marcus Johansson stuffed in a loose puck at the post to beat Canes goalie Cam Ward 41 seconds into the second. After a Tuomo Ruutu tripping penalty, defenseman John Carlson quickly scored on a shot from the point for a 2-1 lead.

Riley Nash's power-play score in the second tied it 2-2 for Carolina, but Semin was penalized for tripping and Caps forward Troy Brouwer scored what would be the winner at 15 minutes, 29 seconds of the second. Green's shot from the point was tipped, the puck bouncing past Ward.

With Grubauer making 39 saves — 13 in the third period — the Caps would hold off the Canes, who had a season high in shots. Ward, given the start ahead of Justin Peters by Canes coach Kirk Muller, had 25 stops.

The Caps' Alexander Ovechkin, the NHL's leading scorer, picked up his 29th goal — and 400th of his career — with an empty netter in the final minute. Center Nicklas Backstrom assisted on all four scores.

"They've got a potent power play (and) we said we wanted to keep our discipline and stay out of the box," Muller said. "But we had opportunities, too."

The Canes had several scoring chances in the first, as Jeff Skinner missed on a breakaway and Grubauer stayed busy. Jordan Staal's eighth goal of the season came on a nice pass by Semin that found Staal in full stride and ahead of Backstrom.

Nash's score, the first power-play goal of the center's career, came off the rebound of an Andrej Sekera shot.

"We got 40-plus shots and had quality opportunities," Muller said. "Breakaways, shots in close, everything. We had enough chances."

Skinner, who had scored eight goals in the past seven games, buzzed around the offensive zone much of the game and had six shots. Semin and Eric Staal also had six apiece as the Canes attempted 85 -- 23 were blocked and 22 missed the net.

"We just couldn't get the one we needed," Skinner said. "We had some near-misses and their guy made some big saves.

"That's the way it goes sometimes. You're going to have games you deserve to lose and you win, and you're going to have games that you deserve a little bit more than you get."

Alexander: 919-829-8945; Twitter: @ice_chip

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