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Caps' power play propels them past 'Canes

The SportsXchange

RALEIGH, N.C. -- If it takes a string of power-play goals, that's fine with the Washington Capitals.

Now, they lead the NHL in that category.

The Capitals scored three second-period power-play goals to defeat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2 on Friday night at PNC Arena.

Capitals left winger Alex Ovechkin scored his 400th career goal into an empty net with 24.5 seconds left.

"When it's going to power you through games, absolutely you want to rely on it," Washington right winger Troy Brouwer said of the power-play tallies.

Center Marcus Johansson, defenseman John Carlson and Brouwer did the second-period scoring for Washington. Center Nicklas Backstrom recorded four assists.

The Capitals have 35 power-play goals. They notched three power-play goals for the second time in their last five games and they have at least one power-play goal in five consecutive games.

Center Jordan Staal and center Riley Nash scored for Carolina, which was coming off a five-day layoff following a West Coast swing. The Hurricanes produced a season-high 41 shots.

"We had the chances," Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. "When you're generating that much offense, we have the guys and personnel (that) the goals will come."

Ovechkin became the sixth-fastest player in NHL history to score 400 goals, doing so in 634 games. He deposited the puck from in front of the net with no Carolina player in the vicinity.

"Empty net or whatever, I'll take it," Ovechkin said.

It figures that Ovechkin might hit a milestone against the Hurricanes. Counting an earlier assist, he boosted his career points total to 69 in 55 games against Carolina.

Washington goaltender Philipp Grubauer made 39 saves as the Capitals won for the seventh time in their last 10 games.

Grubauer has not suffered a regulation loss in six games since a promotion from the AHL. His record is 4-0-1 after matching his career-high save total.

"He has gained our confidence in the last few weeks that he has been here," Brouwer said.

Washington protected the lead by killing a Carolina power play in the final five minutes.

"It was important we got that (kill)," Grubauer said. "That's my job."

Carolina goalie Cam Ward, playing for only the second time in a five-game span, stopped 25 shots.

Brouwer notched the go-ahead goal with 4:31 left in the second period, redirecting defenseman Mike Green's shot past Ward to make it 3-2 before Ovechkin closed out the scoring in the third with the empty-netter.

Staal opened the scoring with 2:48 left in the first period when he skated free of the Capitals defense after a receiving a pass from right winger Alexander Semin.

The Capitals tied the game 49 seconds into the second period on when Johansson stuffed in a power-play goal.

Carlson's goal came in a different fashion has he rifled the puck past Ward on a shot from a couple of feet inside the blueline at 8:34 of the second to make it 2-1.

The Hurricanes were frustrated by scoring chances that went awry, beginning early in the game when center Jeff Skinner's shot went high on a breakaway. Carolina had 23 shots midway through the game, yet only one goal until Nash scooped in a rebound on the power play to tie the game at 2 at 11:16 of the second.

"I thought we played a pretty solid game," Skinner said. "We had a lot of chances and we just couldn't get one at the right time. We just couldn't put one by him at the right time."

Grubauer said the Hurricanes were aggressive at times, seeming to have players waiting for breakaway chances. He was up to the task.

"You want to bury those," Skinner said.

NOTES: Capitals D Mikhail Grabovski played in his 400th career game. ... Hurricanes D Mike Komisarek was activated from injured reserve after missing the last five games, but he was scratched from the lineup. ... Carolina was without rookie C Elias Lindholm, who was assigned to Sweden's World Junior Championship team earlier in the week. He will be back after that tournament ends Jan. 5. ... Washington recalled G Michal Neuvirth from a conditioning loan with Hershey of the AHL, but he was scratched. ... The Capitals begin a three-game home stretch Saturday night, starting with New Jersey. ... The Hurricanes are back in action Saturday night at Tampa Bay.
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