Canes celebrate their victory over Caps
For a moment midway through the third period, the Washington Capitals thought they had a tying goal after a largely lackluster performance Monday night in Game 6 of their NHL playoff series with the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena.
But after Alex Ovechkin knocked the puck into the net behind Petr Mrazek, the referee quickly disallowed the goal, presumably because Ovechkin shoved Mrazek into the net with the puck under him instead of playing the puck. That decision held firm after a replay review, and the Capitals fell 5-2, allowing Carolina to tie the best-of-seven series at 3-3 and force Game 7 on Wednesday night in Washington.
As Mrazek attempted to freeze the puck, the Capitals said they saw it loose behind him. They said the referees never told them why the goal was disallowed.
“They didn’t make the call. It’s on them. It’s over,” said Ovechkin, who earned an early dismissal in the final minute after sarcastically clapping at the officials. “We make a push, we scored a goal, and I think it was good, but again, it’s the referees decision, and they make the decisions they make. ...
“I saw the puck. He didn’t get it under control. He didn’t see that, so I don’t know what the referee saw, or what the explanation was.”
The disputed call came with 9:26 remaining in the third period and the Hurricanes holding a 3-2 lead. Just 1:24 later, Justin Williams scored on a deflection to give Carolina a two-goal lead that made Game 7 a near certainty.
Washington can take some comfort in the fact that the finale will take place on home ice, because the Capitals’ three games in Raleigh were disappointing. They fell 5-0 in Game 3, saw forward T.J. Oshie suffer a series-ending broken collarbone at the end of a 2-1 loss in Game 4, and were outshot 36-25 in Game 6.
That was a disappointing outcome for the Capitals after they bounced back with a dominating, 6-0 win over Carolina in Game 5 that made them 3-0 at home in the series.
“Losing a key player like Oshie a couple games ago, we needed everyone in this game to be at a higher level,” said Capitals coach Todd Reirden. “I think we had that in Game 5 at home. We didn’t have that from enough people [in Game 6].”
Now the defending Stanley Cup champions face a winner-take-all game against a gritty opponent that has remained resilient in its first playoff appearance in 10 years. There is a lot going in the Capitals’ favor.
They have the home-ice advantage, a substantial edge in playoff experience and a 10-time all-star leading the way in Ovechkin. But goaltender Braden Holtby said experience alone won’t get Washington a win in Game 7.
“I think experience helps, but it’s a matter of if you use it or not,” Holtby said. “When it comes down to one game, you use everything you have...You put it all on the line for one game and make sure you have everyone on board. That’s going to be our focus going forward.”
If the Capitals can bounce back to win Wednesday in Washington, they will advance in a playoff bracket that will provide them with an advantage as they seek to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. Tampa Bay’s shocking loss in four games to Columbus leaves the Eastern Conference without its top seed. But in order to capitalize on this opportunity, Washington needs to find a way to finish off the Hurricanes.
Carolina’s aggressive forechecking, which has caused the Capitals problems throughout the series, tilted Game 6 in favor of the Hurricanes. If the Capitals don’t find a way to answer, they may find themselves sitting at home like a lot of other highly seeded teams as the playoffs continue.
“I believe in our team,” Reirden said. “I believe in our ability to play in big games, and in the group that we have, the 90 percent that’s been through this. Yeah, we’re dealing with some injuries and some difficult things, but this is what we work for, and I’m really looking forward to seeing our team play that Game 7.”