After a sluggish start, the Capitals awakened in Raleigh Tuesday night and turned in another victorious effort on the road. Gone are the early-season, game-costing blunders which plagued them mightily away from Washington. A four-goal, second-period outburst paved the way to a 5-3 triumph over the struggling Hurricanes.
With the loss, Carolina has now suffered setbacks in nine of its last 10 games overall. For a long while in the first period it seemed like Hurricanes winger Jiri Tlusty would not allow his team to fail.
While he was surrounded by defenders, Tlusty found a loose puck and slipped a backhand beneath Braden Holtby to get Carolina out to a 1-0 advantage.
The Hurricanes power-play, which has come under fire for its last-place by percentage ranking in the NHL, would click to make it 2-zip. It would be Tlusty again, this time with a sharp snapshot from 25 feet out that beat the Caps goalie to the blocker side.
All the Carolina momentum seized up late in the opening period. Alex Ovechkin took a drop pass from Nicklas Backstrom and ripped a snapshot over the blocker of Hurricanes goalie Dan Ellis at 19:21 of the first frame. The goal extended Ovechkin’s point-scoring streak to nine straight games and gave him tallies in eight of the last nine outings.
When Canes winger Jeff Skinner was whistled for smothering the puck with his hand 18 seconds into period two, the Caps wasted no time in tying the score. Mike Green wound up and cranked a point slapper that screeched past the blocker side of Ellis at the 42-second mark.
An Ovechkin hooking call gave the Hurricanes the man-advantage 34 seconds later and Carolina responded by grabbing the lead back.
Tlusty completed his first NHL hat trick by steering a centering feed from Eric Staal into an open cage to make it 3-2. But that would be the end of the celebrating for the Caniacs.
Backstrom and Green hooked up to tie the score at three. Green continued to pick on the blocker side of Ellis, who was lifted from the game by Carolina coach Kirk Muller, after surrendering three goals on only seven shots.
The huge assist night for Backstrom would continue at the 11:06 mark. The slick center put a perfect feed to the front of the goal wear a speeding Ovechkin chipped a shot over the fallen Justin Peters, who had replaced Ellis. It was the fourth helper on the night for Nick, which tied his single-game best.
Carolina would lose one of its seven defenders in the middle period when Joni Pitkanen crashed heavily into the end boards while racing back to touch-up an icing call. The Finnish defender was writhing in pain and was taken off the ice on a stretcher with what we learned after the game was a fractured heel.
The Caps would pad their lead with one more goal in the second period. While killing a penalty, Marcus Johansson and Joel Ward moved in on a 2-on-1 break. Johansson floated a perfect saucer pass to Ward who re-directed a close-range shot past Peters.
The scoring summary turned out to be complete after 40 minutes, with the Caps converting five of their first 11 shots into goals.
The 5-3 victory coupled with a Winnipeg loss on Long Island leaves the Capitals only two points in back of the Jets for first place in the Southeast. The Caps have two games in-hand on Winnipeg and still have one more head-to-head battle to come at Verizon Center.
Washington will entertain the Islanders on Military Night, this Thursday at Verizon Center. Coverage begins with Caps Central at 6:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet.