Carolina Hurricanes

Capitals top the Canes 2-1

The Carolina Hurricanes' Phil Di Giuseppe (34) and the Washington Capitals' Alex Ovechkin (8) jostle for position in front of the Canes goalie Cam Ward (30) during the first period at PNC Arena in Raleigh.
The Carolina Hurricanes' Phil Di Giuseppe (34) and the Washington Capitals' Alex Ovechkin (8) jostle for position in front of the Canes goalie Cam Ward (30) during the first period at PNC Arena in Raleigh. cseward@newsobserver.com

The offensive chances were there for the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Washington Capitals, playing their second game in as many nights, appeared beatable, especially with goaltender Philipp Grubauer fighting the puck at times.

But in the end, the Canes couldn’t score enough and the Caps refused to be beaten Monday, holding on for a 2-1 victory at PNC Arena and their sixth straight victory.

In the final 91 seconds of regulation, the Canes were on the power play and pulled goalie Cam Ward for an extra attacker and six-on-four advantage. But the Caps hunkered down in front of Grubauer, blocking five shots.

The Canes’ Noah Hanifin had a shot blocked by forward Jay Beagle, and Justin Faulk then had four shots stopped in the last 19 seconds, including another by Beagle. The Canes swarmed about the crease, swatting at the puck, but couldn’t get the tying goal against a team playing the best hockey in the NHL.

Kris Versteeg’s third-period goal, on a play that will make every NHL highlights package for the day, gave the Canes a chance after they trailed 2-0 after two periods. But the Caps now are 25-6-2 this season, for an NHL-leading 52 points, and are 17-0 when leading after two.

“It was unfortunate because in the first and second periods I don’t know how many chances we had,” Versteeg said. “We finally got one in the third. It wasn’t enough, but this game should be something we can build on.”

Grubauer, getting the start as Caps coach Barry Trotz gave Braden Holtby a night off, had 31 saves and was active in net. Versteeg’s goal came on a spectacular shot near the post where he first flicked the puck between his legs, then flipped a forehand past Grubauer for his fifth of the season.

“It was something my Dad always saw (Jaromir) Jagr do, those kind of guys, and he always wanted me to do it,” Versteeg said.

Versteeg said he made a similar shot once while playing for the Chicago Blackhawks, with a big lead, saying coach Joel Quenneville “really let me have it pretty good.” But the Canes needed it Monday in their final game before the Christmas break.

Michael Latta and Jason Chimera scored goals for the Caps, 13-1-1 in their last 15 games. Latta scored off the rush late in the first, knocking a rebound past Ward, and Chimera won a battle in front of Ward in the second to get a piece of the puck.

Chimera’s score came after Beagle won a faceoff, getting the puck back to defenseman John Carlson for a quick shot from the point.

That was all the Caps scoring as the Canes did a respectable job neutralizing Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie. Ovechkin, who has 17 goals, had two shots on net.

“They’re a very skilled team and I think we kept their top two lines down,” Canes defenseman Jaccob Slavin said. “We worked hard and we had bunch of chances at the end.”

The Caps, who have been playing without injured defenseman Brooks Orpik, stopped the Canes (13-16-5) with 26 blocked shots, seven by defenseman Matt Niskanen. The Canes also hurt themselves by missing the net on 21 attempts, several from good scoring areas.

The Canes were coming off a hard-fought 2-1 road victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday while the Caps blasted the New York Rangers 7-3 Sunday.

“I thought we had the puck a lot, had some chances,” Canes coach Bill Peters said. “I thought we were right there, for sure.”

Chip Alexander: 919-829-8945, @ice_chip

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