Sunday, November 28, 2010 8:58 p.m.
By Joe Beninati
The Caps and Hurricanes treated us to their usual nerve-wracking conclusion today. Whenever these two teams get together all the makings are there for a dramatic photo-finish and this contest did not disappoint.The first five minutes of the action belonged to Washington. We had them down for five high-quality scoring chances right off the bat, but Cam Ward in goal for Carolina did a very fine job to keep the home team quiet.Ward had little or no chance to prevent the Caps opening goal. An aggressive fore-check from Eric Fehr forced a turnover in the corner, from there he found a wide-open Marcus Johansson on the doorstep and the rookie took his time before slipping the puck past Ward seven minutes into the game.The Capitals next goal was created by a beautiful open-ice move from Alex Ovechkin. On a quick-developing 2-on-1 break, the explosive winger shifted the puck around Tim Gleason and shoveled a perfect backhand pass to Alex Semin who roofed his team-leading 18th goal. Ovechkin has six assists in his last three games. He had at least three golden chances to score throughout the day, but either misfired or was robbed by Ward.Carolina would not buckle. They took only 50 seconds of the second period to cut their deficit in half. Eric Staal made a sparkling pass to Erik Cole who jammed one between Semyon Varlamov's pads from point-blank range at the top of the crease.As the game went along, Washingto's fore-check appeared to have less and less of an effect on the Canes. Both goalies were settling into a good groove, and it became apparent that this would not be the normal high-scoring game at Verizon Center.There wouldn't be any scoring in the first 19 minutes of period three. But just when it looked like the Caps had a victory in regulation secured, they let it slip. If you check the NHL stats, you'll see that Eric Staal wins just 42.8 of his faceoffs. David Steckel is 1 in the NHL at winning draws, doing so 64.3 of the time.Those two were pitted against each other on the biggest faceoff of the game with just seven seconds left in regulation, and it was Staal who prevailed; in a big way!Not only did he win the faceoff, but he hungrily cleaned up a rebound and potted a backhand past Varlamov with just 2.2 seconds left.Carolina had the best chance to win the game late in overtime when Ian White found himself alone 10 feet in front of Varlamov who made an enormous stop.Ovechkin would be the only guy to score in the shootout skills competition. He froze Ward with a strong deke to his forehand, then snapped a shot over the glove. At the other end, Varlamov made sure that Washington would finish the long weekend in style by stopping Jeff Skinner, Jussi Jokinen and Tuomo Ruutu in succession.The Caps now get a couple of days to prepare for a tough Western Conference double-dip. They will see St. Louis and Dallas on Wednesday and Thursday. Those outings should be a pair of interesting assignments.