Carolina Hurricanes’ Andrei Svechnikov talks for the first time about his fight with Alex Ovechkin: ‘I am not superhero’
The Carolina Hurricanes will go into Game 6 of their playoff series with the Washington Capitals facing a hard truth: a loss will end their season.
“We’ve been handling pressure pretty good all year,” forward Teuvo Teravainen said Sunday. “There have been so many must-wins this season, so it’s just another one.”
The Canes also will go into Monday’s playoff elimination game likely missing rookie forward Andrei Svechnikov, who had hoped to be fully cleared from the concussion protocol and ready to rejoin the lineup. But Svechnikov, injured in a one-sided fight with the Caps’ Alex Ovechkin in Game 3, is “highly doubtful” for the game, Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said Sunday. The same is true for injured forwards Jordan Martinook and Micheal Ferland.
After being whipped 6-0 Saturday in Game 5 in Washington, falling behind 3-2 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference series, the Canes held a practice on Sunday at PNC Arena. Svechnikov again wore a yellow, no-contact jersey and Brind’Amour said in following the concussion protocol a player can’t be cleared to play until he is first cleared and participates in a full-contact practice.
“My head still hurts a little bit but it’s all right,” Svechnikov said after practice. “We’ll see.”
The Canes will not hold a morning skate workout Monday before Game 6, which has a 7 p.m. starting time at PNC Arena.
The Canes have won both playoff games at home while the Caps have swept the three games at Capital One Arena. But injury attrition is taking its toll on the Canes with Svechnikov, Martinook and Ferland, three of their more physical players, now sidelined. Neither Martinook nor Ferland practiced Sunday.
The Canes on Sunday recalled forward Clark Bishop from the Charlotte Checkers of of the AHL on an emergency basis. Bishop made his NHL debut and played 20 games for the Canes this season, mostly as the fourth line center.
“You take three guys out of our top nine (forwards) ... and it’s the competitive guys you’re taking out,” Brind’Amour said. “You’re asking a lot for call-ups and guys who fill those roles. That’s the big challenge we have. But having said that, I still think our other players have to step up and at least be the players they can be.”
After beating the Caps 5-0 in Game 3 and following it with a 2-1 win in Game 4 at PNC Arena, the Canes evened the series. The Caps, the 2018 Stanley Cup champions, appeared a bit flustered, certainly bothered.
But late in Game 4, Canes forward Warren Foegele sent Caps forward T.J. Oshie into the boards. Brind’Amour called it a “nudge” and Ovechkin called it a “dirty play” but Oshie was left with a broken clavicle.
In a flash, the Caps went from flustered to infuriated. Returning home on Saturday for Game 5, taking on a “Win for TJ” mentality, they shoved the Canes to the brink of elimination with the 6-0 detonation.
“You lose a key leader in T.J. Oshie and not one person is going to replace him,” Caps coach Todd Reirden said after the game. “Everyone needed to take their game to a different level than it had been at. That means your best leaders have to be even better.”
For the Caps, they were. Center Nicklas Backstrom scored the first two goals in a four-point game. Ovechkin finished with a goal and two assists and helping set a physical tone with 11 hits as the Caps looked to wear down the Canes.
“All the things we’ve done pretty well during the year, it all went away,” Brind’Amour said Sunday. “Tough, tough loss.”
What now? Can the Canes tilt things back their way back in Game 6 on home ice, or will the Caps march on?
Before the series began, Canes captain Justin Williams, a three-time Stanley Cup winner, said, “At some point somebody’s going to give up and say it’s too hard, and we’ve got to make sure it’s not us.”
But the Canes will need to be better in every area Monday -- at even strength, on the power play, penalty killing, defensive zone, on the forecheck, playing the body. If that’s too hard, their season may end.
“I thought guys worked hard tonight but we didn’t play our game,” Canes defenseman Jaccob Slavin said Saturday. “Our game is a forechecking game and I think they did a good job breaking the puck out against us. If we can’t get them hemmed in their zone and let our forwards go to work we’re not playing too great.”
Canes center Jordan Staal said scoring first again could be critical Monday -- the winning team has scored the first goal in all five games. More so, the home team has won all five games and PNC Arena was full and at full throat in Games 3 and 4.
“Hopefully we can use that to our advantage,” Staal said.