It started grandly for the Carolina Hurricanes, Warren Foegele scoring 17 seconds into the game.
The second period ended perfectly for the Hurricanes, Teuvo Teravainen a blur down the slot in scoring with 28 seconds left.
But playoff games take a full 60 minutes to decide -- or longer. The games are tight, the hits harder, open ice tougher to find and everything hard-earned. So it was Thursday between the Hurricanes and Washington Capitals in another game rippling with tension and emotion in PNC Arena.
It ended with the Canes winning 2-1, evening the Eastern Conference series at two games apiece. It ended with the Caps swarming around Canes goalie Petr Mrazek in the final seconds of regulation, banging bodies, whacking at the puck, looking to force overtime.
But the Canes wouldn’t allow it. In winning the past two games they have proven they will stand up to the defending Stanley Cup champions, whether it’s a 19-year-old rookie challenging one of the NHL’s biggest stars or a team determined to make their first playoff appearance since 2009 memorable and meaningful.
“We are a pretty confident team,” said Teravainen, who was bloodied in the final frantic seconds. “When we get rolling we feel like nothing can stop us. But we have to be careful and not get too high. We have to stay focused.”
The series shifts back to Washington for Game 5 on Saturday and the Caps will be without forward T.J. Oshie, who was injured after being knocked into the boards by Foegele with 5:08 left in regulation.
Foegele was called for a boarding minor -- Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour disagreeing with the call while Caps coach Todd Reirden wanted a stiffer penalty -- but Carolina killed off the penalty to preserve the 2-1 lead as Mrazek stopped a shot in tight by Evgeny Kuznetsov moments before the power play expired.
Reirden said Oshie, who was bent over in pain after hitting the wall, would be out “quite some time” with an upper-body injury. But the Canes have their own attrition concerns as forward Jordan Martinook did not play after the first period because of a lower-body injury.
Forwards Andrei Svechnikov and Micheal Ferland were injured in Game 3 -- Svechnikov facing off with Alex Ovechkin in a fight that left Svechnikov knocked out and in the NHL’s concussion protocol. Now, Martinook.
Mrazek, who shut out the Caps 5-0 in Game 3, faced 31 shots Thursday but only Ovechkin could beat him on a second-period power play. It also helped that the Canes’ defensive corps, with Calvin de Haan back in the lineup after missing the first three playoff games with an injury, was active and positionally sound, quickly getting sticks on pucks, denying scoring chances.
“I can’t say enough about our group. They just battle,” Brind’Amour said. “They’re giving everything they can. Our D were really solid tonight. They really held the fort down and obviously our goaltending came up big.”
Foegele’s goal, on the opening shift of the game, had the crowd of 19,202, a PNC Arena record for a hockey game, rumbling. Defenseman Jaccob Slavin, with a burst of speed up the middle, led the rush and Foegele was there for the finish.
It was Foegele’s third goal of the series -- the 23-year-old is quickly making a name for himself -- and carved out a piece of franchise history as the fastest score to start a game or a period in a playoff game.
But Foegele did have to sweat out the two minutes for the boarding penalty late in the game. That wasn’t easy.
“Unfortunate play and you never want to see anybody get hurt,” Foegele said. “I was definitely shaken a bit there. It’s not the right time to take a penalty. But all along everybody’s been sticking up for each other when somebody makes a mistake, and the boys helped me there.”
Ovechkin’s power-play goal at 10:35 of the second pulled the Caps into a 1-1 tie, Ovechkin leaping into the glass, but Teravainen had an answer before the period ended.
On a well-executed rush, Nino Niederreiter took a pass from Sebastian Aho just over the Washington blue line and found Teravainen skating free between Andre Burakovsky and Brooks Orpik between the circles. Teravainen beat goalie Braden Holtby to the glove side and the place was loud -- very loud -- again.
“Obviously it’s tough to rebound from that, but I thought our guys didn’t even flinch. We kept playing hard,” Holtby said.
The energy level again was high at PNC Arena. Maybe not quite like Monday night and Game 3, when the decibel count was off the charts, but that was the Canes’ first home playoff game since 2009.
That game had Svechnikov being knocked out in the fight with Ovechkin, an ugly scene that Brind’Amour said left him sick to his stomach. With the Canes also having lost Ferland, forward Patrick Brown was recalled from the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL and thrust into his first Stanley Cup playoff game Thursday.
Then, Martinook went down. The veteran forward banged into defenseman Dmitry Orlov behind the Caps net, their knees bumping and then Martinook’s right heel slamming into the end boards. Slow to get up, Martinook finally made his way to the Canes bench and the locker room.
To everyone’s surprise, Martinook returned before the first period ended and played. He then tried to skate before the second period began but was unable to go, angrily smashing his stick into the wall in the runway back to the room.
But the Canes found a way. It’s a 2-2 series.
“This group has been believing in each other,” Foegele said. “Everyone is stepping up. All of us believe we can win. That’s our mindset.”