Capitals roll over Hurricanes

Capitals roll over Hurricanes
November 5, 2011, 2:12 am
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This time, there were no last-second heart palpitations.

This time, the Capitals took a lead, tightened up their defensive play and ground out an impressive 5-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes that had to please coach Bruce Boudreau.

Or did it?

"I thought we played pretty good," Boudreau said in a cryptic postgame news conference.

"I liked the way we played tonight."

Jeff Halpern, John Carlson and Cody Eakin scored their first goals of the season and goaltender Michal Neuvirth was strong between the pipes with 24 saves to earn his second victory of the season, both against the Hurricanes.

Troy Brouwer and Nicklas Backstrom also scored for the Capitals, who killed off four Carolina power plays en route to running their record to 9-2-0.

The Caps are now 7-0-1 in their last eight games against the Hurricanes, outscoring them 23-13 in those games. The Caps have also won in their last four visits to RBC Center, where they have not lost in regulation since Nov. 21, 2009.

"When we play that way I think we can surprise some teams," Capitals defenseman Roman Hamrik said. "When they tried to open it up we tried to focus on our defense."

Anxious to end their futility against the Capitals, the Hurricanes jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 3:26 into the game on Anthony Stewarts third goal of the season. Brooks Laich was kicked out of the faceoff circle and linemate Joel Ward lost the draw to Tuomo Ruuttu.

Just as Hurricanes defenseman Jay Harrison was firing a shot from the point, Jeff Schultz was giving up real estate to Stewart in the crease and Stewart tipped the puck past Neuvirth, who was making his first start since the season opener on Oct. 8.

"I didnt play for a whle, but I stayed positive and afer their first goal I went save by save," Neuvirth said. "I think our PK was the difference tonight."

The Capitals quietly outshot the Canes 15-10 in the first period but played with noticeably more jump in the second, both offensively and on the penalty kill.

Halpern, a healthy scratch in Tuesday nights win over Anaheim, drew the Caps even with his first goal of the season. Mike Knuble and Matt Hendricks worked the puck down low and Halpern sprung free down the slot and finished off a nice pass from Knuble at 1:28 mark of the second period.

"It's fun to be back in the lineup and be part of a win," Halpern said. "I was pretty nervous the first three or four shifts. We were able to lean on them a bit. You always want to get that first goal and get rid of the goose egg."

Troy Brouwer, a question mark right up until game time after missing two practices with a shoulder injury, gave the Caps a 2-1 lead just 69 seconds later when he converted a 2-on-1 with linemate Marcus Johansson for his third goal of the season.

The Capitals flirted with disaster by taking three second-period penalties after taking the lead Ward for hooking, Roman Hamrlik for holding and Hendricks for goalie interference -- but excellent penalty killing by Halpern, Hendricvks, Knuble, Laich, Schultz, Karl Alzner, John Erskine and Dennis Wideman kept the Canes at bay.

So did Neuvirth, who stopped all 10 shots he faced in the second period.

The Caps finished off the Canes with a dominant third period that featured a power-play rocket launch from Carlson that resulted in his first goal of the season and a nice shortside goal by Eakin for his first career goal in the NHL.

Eakin was the trailer on a 2-on-1 with Semin, who found him for a quick-release that beat Cam Ward over his right shoulder.

Backstrom finished things off in the closing minutes when he converted a nice pass from Alex Ovechkin for his fifth goal of the season.

Loose pucks
Eric Staal was a minus-2 for the Hurricanes, dropping him to a league-worst minus-14. "I think we played really well against the Staal line and against Skinner," Ovechkin said. "We were in their face and we were battling. It takes a lot of energy and we did a good job." ... The Capitals boarded a flight fro New York after the game and will finish off their first back-to-back games of the season Saturday on Long Island. Tomas Vokoun is expected to get the nod in goal for the Caps.