The Capitals forfeited a pair of points Tuesday night, allowing the Carolina Hurricanes to further distance themselves at the top of the Southeast Division. The Canes skated away with a 4-0 win and now have a comfortable 10-point lead over the Caps. It was Washington’s third loss in a row, while the Canes, who continue to get solid goaltending without the services of Cam Ward, have won six of their last seven. Justin Peters, who always seem to dazzle against the Capitals, made 26 saves in the shutout and Riley Nash scored twice in the second period en route to Carolina’s victory.
Despite the outcome, Capitals Head Coach Adam Oates liked a lot of what he saw from his team, who have been outscored 13-3 in their last three games, Tuesday night.
“We did a lot of things right, we had a lot of chances early,” he said. “We didn’t score, they got a soft one (that) put us on our heels.”
Veteran forward Matt Hendricks echoed those sentiments.
“We had a lot of good scoring chances,” Hendricks said. “Ovie (Alexander Ovechkin) and Marcus (Johansson) and Ribs (Mike Ribeiro) came out and we had a lot of good movement in the beginning. We had some more in the second; (Troy) Brouwer got a shorthanded breakaway. We just couldn’t find the net tonight.”
Oates is right that his team, despite being shut out, certainly had opportunities against Carolina. He’s right that the Caps limited the Hurricanes chances early in the game and Braden Holtby stood tall in net despite allowing a couple of fluky goals.
But that seemingly harmless scoring chance 3:55 into the first period resulted in a goal when Joe Corvo’s impossibly-angled shot from the corner bounced off of Holtby and into the net. Oates can’t deny that his team was deflated after that, and with 23 games left in this shortened season, touting the positives after you’ve dropped your third straight game, this time against a division foe, doesn’t make a lot of sense.
It’s desperation time for the Capitals. In reality, it has been since their dismal start to the year.
“We’re a desperate team,” Hendricks said. “To lose three in a row at this time of the season, in our situation, stings a lot.”
Not all of his players were as optimistic as Oates.
“It wasn’t a very good game for us at all,” Caps defenseman Karl Alzner said. “We can’t be going 5-5 in a 10 game stretch here. Everything’s got to be 7-3, 8-2. We’re not in a good spot at all right now. It’s got to be picked up now, it’s got to stay up. We can’t have these dips.”
Alzner seemed to be more on target than Oates was in his post-game comments. The Capitals have a lot of digging to do, and it starts Thursday in Raleigh.
Jay Harrison helped put the Canes up by two when his shot from the left circle deflected off of Nash and past Holtby 5:55 into the second period. Unfortunately for Holtby, it was the bouncing, deflected pucks that eluded him.
The Canes put the game out of reach when Patrick Dwyer chased down a puck to nullify icing before dishing it to Riley Nash, who was streaking through the slot. Nash one-timed it past Holtby for his second goal of the game at 18:26 of the second period.
Capitals defenseman Steve Olesky tried to pound some life into his team with his one-sided tilt against Drayson Bowman at 5:34 of the third period but to no avail. The Caps had a chance to spoil Peters’ shutout when Eric Staal took a penalty with less than two minutes remaining in the game, but Dwyer ended up scoring a short-handed, empty-net goal instead.