The Carolina Hurricanes needed a few heroes.
They needed their crowd being loud.
More than anything, the Canes needed a playoff victory over the Washington Capitals.
This night, it all came together for the Canes in a 5-0 victory in Game 3 as the series shifted to PNC Arena and the momentum shifted after the Caps, the defending Stanley Cup champions, won the first two games.
Canes rookie forward Andrei Svechnikov left the game with an injury in the first period, battered in a fight with the Caps’ Alex Ovechkin. For the Canes and their coach, Rod Brind’Amour, that was unsettling.
“When you see that it makes you sick. I’m still stick to my stomach,” Brind’Amour said.
Warren Foegele and Dougie Hamilton, two of Svechnikov’s best friends on the team, hated to see him down and hurt. But they responded in the right way, each scoring twice and Foegele adding an assist as the Canes won their first playoff game since May 14, 2009.
“We were relentless and kept going after them,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton scored on power plays in the second and third periods as the sellout crowd of 18,783, which included NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, rumbled from start to finish. When Brock McGinn, who had a goal and assist, scored in the third, it was 5-0. Canes fans were hoarse by then but still loud enough.
Goalie Petr Mrazek earned his fourth career playoff shutout and had little work after the first period as the aggressive Canes kept the puck much of the game. Carolina finished with 45 shots while limiting the Caps to 18 for the game -- one in the second period and seven in the third.
The Canes again lifted their sticks and took a bow after the game but were not that joyful in the locker room, with Svechnikov in their minds.
“Proud of our group, to come back and play the game,” a somber Brind’Amour said. “We just played hard. Our guys understood the situation we were in tonight.”
The Caps were the poised, patient team in winning the first two games of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series, winning 4-2 and then 4-3 in overtime at Capital One Arena. But the Canes were the better team Thursday in all three zones and will go into Game 4 on Thursday at PNC Arena looking to even the series.
Svechnikov’s departure was a downer for Canes fans, coming after forward Micheal Ferland left with an upper-body injury in the first.
The 19-year-old Russian dropped the gloves against the 6-3, 235-pound Ovechkin in front of the Caps net, trading blows in a short but brutal fight. Ovechkin landed the heaviest punches, dropping Svechnikov with a right and then falling on him.
Svechnikov was helped off the ice, and his injury incensed Canes fans and further revved up the Canes players, who came at the Caps with a fury.
“I kept thinking about it the whole game,” Hamilton said. “I just hated seeing that, the whole part of it, it’s just something you never want to see. I just feel bad for him and hopefully he gets better soon. The game doesn’t really matter when something like that happens and I just hope he’s OK.”
Before the fight, which came at 10:59 of the first, Foegele went to the front of the net and didn’t leave until he scored, giving the Canes a 1-0 lead -- Carolina’s first lead of the series. Defenseman Justin Faulk got off an outside shot, the puck hitting Foegele in front of goalie Braden Holtby.
In the second period, it was Foegele again. On a rush into the Caps zone, Sebastian Aho waited for defenseman Matt Niskanen to go down, then found Foegele open in front of the net.
“I love these moments, I think all of us love these moments,” said Foegele, named the game’s first star. “This is when it counts, when it matters.”
By that point, the Canes were landing body checks all over the ice. It was an increasingly physical game, nasty at times. The Canes were credited with 52 hits -- 10 by Jordan Staal, who also had two assists.
“They were a desperate team and were at a different level than we were,” Caps coach Todd Reirden said. “They were definitely ready to go from the beginning, as expected. It was a live atmosphere in the building. They got some energy from it. It’s one game and now it’s how we respond.”
And how the Canes respond, having tasted victory in the playoffs.