Capitals 5, Hurricanes 1
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP)—Five games in 14 days against the same opponent sure sounds like the playoffs. As the Washington Capitals complete a miserable season, this is as close as they’ll get.
“You’ve got to take the most positive thing you can,” right wing Matt Bradley said.
He and his teammates continue to do so at the expense of the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Capitals also got goals from Brian Willsie and Chris Clark, who added their 15th short-handed goal of the season in the final 2 minutes to break the franchise record. They won consecutive games for the first time in three weeks, a streak that came after they had lost eight in a row.
“They’re out there working hard, they’re fighting,” Hurricanes center Kevyn Adams said. “That team could easily go through the motions, and they’re not.”
Carolina, which clinched a playoff spot Monday night, missed an opportunity to secure the Southeast Division title. Its magic number remains at two points with 10 games left after the third straight loss to Washington, mired 14th out of 15 teams in the Eastern Conference.
No matter. The Hurricanes won the first two games in the season series by a combined score of 11-2, but they haven’t had much luck since. And the teams are scheduled to meet three more times in a stretch of five days next week.
“They were on the attack all night long, and their D was up the ice all night,” Washington coach Glen Hanlon said. “They’re a hard team to play against.”
In this one, the Caps won despite getting outshot 50-28, the most for Carolina since the franchise moved from Hartford. The then-Whalers had 54 shots against Pittsburgh in February 1989.
“It’s just one of those things,” Johnson said. “They get a lot of shots to the net, and they crash and you’ve just got to keep their rebounds away from their guys going to the net.”
Bradley’s goals were his first since Jan. 13—the right wing had four assists in 20 games between goals—but the help from Ovechkin was nothing new. He moved within three goals of the third-best total for a first-year player (Joe Nieuwendyk, 1987-88) by scoring for the fifth time in six games.
Rod Brind’Amour brought Carolina within 3-1 midway through the second period with a power play goal before Ovechkin restored the three-goal lead, also with the man-advantage.
With Ray Whitney in the penalty box for hooking, Ovechkin took a shot from in front of the net that was deflected wide. The rebound came to him on the other side of the crease, and with goaltender Cam Ward sprawled to stop the initial shot, Ovechkin had no trouble stuffing in the rebound.
“That was a frustrating game, because we had more than enough opportunities to score,” Brind’Amour said.
That made it 4-1 and brought out some boos from the 15,548 in attendance at the RBC Center. Johnson got the nod over Olaf Kolzig and picked up his first victory since Feb. 28.
“I felt good, on top of the crease, waiting for the puck,” Johnson said. “I wasn’t reacting to too many things that make my game all messed up. I was watching the puck and watching the play, and that’s it.”
The news got even worse for the Hurricanes. Rookie left wing Andrew Ladd (lower-body injury) joined six teammates in street clothes for this one, running their total of games lost to injury to 233.
“I think the big story is that we just couldn’t score,” Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. “We had more than enough opportunities, we just couldn’t get it done.” ^Notes: Hurricanes LW Cory Stillman remained at 499 career points. … The final two of the three games next week between the teams come in Washington. … Ovechkin narrowly missed a second goal late in the third period on a breakaway. Teemu Selanne holds the NHL rookie record with 76 goals and 132 points, set in 1992-93.