Hurricanes lose to Capitals as Metro Division race tightens

Carolina Hurricanes center Martin Necas (88) battles Washington Capitals right wing Daniel Sprong (10) for the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, March 3, 2022, in Washington.  (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Carolina Hurricanes center Martin Necas (88) battles Washington Capitals right wing Daniel Sprong (10) for the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, March 3, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

PA

Sometimes a team faces a line-in-the-sand type game during the season and the Washington Capitals had one on Thursday.

The Caps had lost their last three games and six straight at home at the Capital One Center. They had fallen from the top three spots in the Metropolitan Division and into second place in the Eastern Conference playoffs. It was the hour of despair.

Enter the Carolina Hurricanes, the leaders of the metro. The Canes left the losers on Thursday after a 4-0 loss to the Caps, returning to Raleigh to face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday with a few questions of their own.

Caps goalie Vitek Vanecek won his first game since shutting out Dallas on Jan. 28, shutting out the Canes with 36 saves. It was his third shutout of the season.

Not much went right for Carolina (37-12-5), which lost both games of its two-game road trip after an overtime loss to Detroit. The Canes looked a little sluggish and their mental focus wasn’t very sharp for most of the game. Goalkeeper Frederik Andersen, involved in a big clash in the first period, suffered only his eighth defeat of the season.

The Canes took too many penalties — again — but couldn’t bail themselves out with their top-ranked penalty kill in that game. The Caps’ Evgeny Kuznetsov scored on the power play at 5-on-3 in the first period and Alex Ovechkin on the power-play at 5-on-4 in the second.

Ovechkin’s goal, on a searing one-timer from the top of the left circle, was his 33rd of the season and 763rd of his career. He needs three more goals to tie Jaromir Jagr for third on the NHL’s all-time list.

Defender Martin Fehervary also scored in the second period for the Caps (28-19-9) as the Caps managed to get to the middle of the ice and control the pace of play while Vanecek took care of business when the Canes threatened . Dmitry Orlov scored late in regulation just after a Caps power play expired.

Striker Martin Necas, scoreless in 17 consecutive games, gave the Canes an active and energetic game. But there wasn’t enough jump elsewhere in the lineup, which caused forward Derek Stepan to drop back and Seth Jarvis to make the healthy scratch.

The Canes had their chances on the power play, but looked disjointed with the man advantage and couldn’t muster anything dangerous. They had 17 shots in the third but Vanecek held off.

Canes striker Teuvo Teravainen enjoyed a nine-game point streak, the longest of his career, last Thursday and Sebastian Aho was unable to extend his seven-game streak.

In more than 30 years at the N&O, Chip Alexander has covered the beats for NC State, UNC, Duke and East Carolina, and is now in his 11th season on the beat for the Carolina Hurricanes. Alexander, who has won numerous state and national writing awards, covered the Hurricanes’ move to North Carolina in 1997 and was part of The N&O’s coverage of the Cup run. Stanley 2006 Canes.

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