Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson was the first to say it Friday about the Carolina Hurricanes.
“They always play us tough in this building,” he said.
Caps coach Todd Reirden said the same, noting, “They’re a dangerous team, especially here at home.”
The Canes were dangerous at times, and especially Sebastian Aho, who had two goals and two assists. But the Caps, the defending Stanley Cup champions, have the ever-dangerous Alex Ovechkin, who had his second straight hat trick, and others who can find the net.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer
Caps forward Jakub Vrana did that in the sixth round of a shootout, beating goalie Scott Darling for a 6-5 victory at PNC Arena.
So ended a game that had the Canes take a 4-1 lead, Ovechkin and the Caps score four straight goals for a 5-4 lead, then Canes captain Justin Williams tie it on a power play with 6:12 left in regulation when Caps goalie Braden Holtby couldn’t clear the puck from behind the net.
The Canes, who had scored three power-play goals, had 1:35 of a four-on-three advantage at the end of overtime but couldn’t get the winner.
Defenseman Dougie Hamilton had the Canes’ only shootout score, in the fourth round, but Nicklas Backstrom matched it for the Caps and Vrana won it.
“It hurts,” Aho said. “It’s one of the best teams in the world and we were right there. To be 4-1 up and then lose it ... again, again, again, again, we have to learn our lesson and just keep working.”
Ovechkin never stops working or attacking and has been at his best as the Caps have won 11 of 13 games. He had a hat trick Tuesday against the Detroit Red Wings, then the 22nd of his career against the Canes, and now has 28 goals for the season.
Ovechkin scored his first on a bullet of a shot in the first that beat Darling to the far side and pushed his point streak to 13 games, matching his career high. His third goal, on a third-period power play for a 5-4 lead, also was on a blast from the left wing that glanced off defenseman Brett Pesce.
But his second goal, Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said, came on the most telling play of the game.
With the Canes leading 4-2 in the second after a Wilson goal, Ovechkin again had the puck on the left wing, with Hamilton positioned in front of him. But the Caps’ Jonas Siegenthaler rubbed out Hamilton like an offensive lineman clearing the way to the end zone, allowing Ovechkin to skate in unencumbered, shoot and score.
Canes fans exploded with boos over the no-call. Brind’Amour was upset.
“I was frustrated because that was the turning point of the game,” he said. “The game turned on that play for me. The momentum got going and they cranked it up.”
The Caps’ Travis Boyd tipped the puck past Darling 53 seconds later for a 4-4 tie and Ovechkin had some hats flying on the ice at 9:49 of the third.
But it wasn’t over. Holtby misplayed the puck behind the net, allowing Williams to score an easy one.
Williams had been the vocal one on the bench, encouraging his teammates to stick with it. Then, he delivered a goal that at least earned a point in the first game of a five-game homestand.
The Canes (13-13-5) took the 4-1 lead as Aho had a shorthanded goal, power-play goal, assist and power-play assist.
“He’s been good lately, driving the ship for sure,” Brind’Amour said.
Jordan Martinook got the Canes started with a goal 43 seconds into the game, and Teuvo Teravainen whipped in a power-play shot for a 4-1 lead in the second.
Aho’s shorthanded score, the Canes’ second of the season, came on a breakaway after Teravainen, who had two assists, pushed the puck ahead to him. But Aho did not get a chance in the shootout.
“There are two ways to look at it,” Brind’Amour said of the game. “You can say you came out and played against the Stanley Cup champs and you could have had a win, but the guys know they threw that one away in the second and let them get back in the game.
“I like that we didn’t just cave in then because that could have been really devastating. But we didn’t. We kept going. The shootout is a tough way to lose a game and great way to win, but it leaves a sour taste in your mouth for sure. A tough way to lose but you move on.”