There are no more preseason games for the Carolina Hurricanes.
It’s time for the real thing.
The Canes, in their seventh and last exhibition game, needed a shootout Friday to decide it. Defenseman Jaccob Slavin had the winning shootout goal as the Canes topped the Washington Capitals 3-2 at PNC Arena.
“I thought we’ve gotten better throughout the games and we’ve gotten a lot of good looks for different players,” Canes center Jordan Staal said, looking ahead to the regular season. “We’re feeling confident with where we’re at.”
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Shootouts have been a struggle the past few years for the Canes — both scoring shootout goals and winning. But Jeff Skinner, Teuvo Teravainen and then Slavin scored against the Caps’ Braden Holtby.
Skinner had the winner Wednesday in a shootout as the Canes beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. That’s two straight, albeit in preseason.
Slavin likes to joke that he only has one shootout move but he beat Holtby with hisd backhander when it counted, as the fourth and last shooter. Holtby had denied Victor Rask, who had a chance to end it before Slavin’s winner.
Cam Ward was in net for the Canes, finishing with 22 saves. Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakowsky scored in the shootout for the Caps, but Lars Eller was denied and Justin Williams hit the crossbar.
Noah Hanifin had a goal and assist, and Lee Stempniak scored for the Canes (4-2-1 preseason), who open the 2016-17 season on the road Thursday against the Winnipeg Jets.
Forward Phil Di Giuseppe, fighting for a roster spot, had the game’s biggest hit, crunching the Caps’ Taylor Chorney into the boards behind the Washington net in the second period -- a clean hit.
“Part of my game is getting in on the forecheck and that’s what I was doing,” Di Giuseppe said. “I just went to finish my check … and I guess I got him pretty good.”
Di Giuseppe later dropped the gloves and fought defenseman Matt Niskanen, who was retaliating for the Chorney hit.
Some heavy punches were thrown. Di Giuseppe, saying it was his first fight in either college or pro hockey, came away with a bloody finger and joked, “My face is still intact. No stitches.”
One concern for the Canes was having All-Star defenseman Justin Faulk leave the game in the second period with a lower-body injury. Faulk did not return but Canes coach Bill Peters said he did not think the injury was serious.
Peters said earlier Friday that defenseman Ryan Murphy would be out three to four weeks with a lower-body injury. The Canes didn’t need another injury, to Faulk, with the season about to begin.
Stempniak, playing on a line with Staal and Joakim Nordstrom, scored in the second period, going backdoor and taking a pass through the top of the crease from Staal. Hanifin scored on a power play in the third, ripping a shot from the left circle for a 2-0 lead.
The Caps tied it 2-2 as defenseman John Carlson scored on the power play and forward Zach Sanford scored unassisted. Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom were among the Caps not playing.
Defenseman Ron Hainsey had a chance to win it in the three-on-three overtime, driving the net but being stopped by Holtby. The last preseason game would need a shootout.
Peters said he might have as many as seven options now in shootouts, saying, “There’s a different skill level in this group than in years past.”
Staal smiled when asked if seven preseason games were enough. “We’re ready,” he said.