RALEIGH It was a game the Carolina Hurricanes should have won.
But the Washington Capitals were just more active on the score sheet over the final 50 minutes.
Mike Ribeiro followed Alex Ovechkin’s weak attempt on a breakaway with just over two minutes remaining, giving the Capitals a 3-2 comeback win and erasing the advantage of Carolina’s 4-0 road romp two nights earlier.
Carolina, which had a two-game winning streak snapped, has won six of its past eight. It was the first time in 12 tries the Hurricanes had lost when leading after two periods.
Carolina leads the Southeast Division by one point over Winnipeg, with the Hurricanes having 22 games left in the lockout-shortened season.
“We can’t be happy,” Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said. “We had a really well-executed first period with a lot of really good things. But we let them back in the second period – we had long shifts, turnovers and stopped shooting the puck … When you have a chance to bury a team you have to keep with the program.”
Michal Neuvirth (2-4-1) had 36 saves for Washington, which leads the series 2-1-0.
“Obviously the win is important,” Washington coach Adam Oates said. “Coming back, hanging in there, killing some penalties, a big power-play goal to tie it and you know Ovi wins it.”
Hurricanes goalie Dan Ellis (4-3-0), who has been sharing duties with Justin Peters since Cam Ward’s knee injury five games ago, had 22 saves.
The Hurricanes struck quickly as Alexander Semin – who had played his whole NHL career with Washington before signing a free-agent contract with Carolina during the offseason – beat Neuvirth stick side from the low slot at 1 minute, 14 seconds on Eric Staal’s pass from the left corner. Jiri Tlusty had the secondary assist, giving that No. 1 line 37 points over the past eight games.
“We didn’t get the job done,” said Staal, who collected his 20th assist. “We had a 2-0 lead against a team that’s behind us and didn’t finish it off. … Two bad line changes cost us two goals, and a power-play goal for them and that was it. We’ve got to learn from this. Our third period’s got to be a little bit better. Give them credit. They had to come out to compete and they did and we didn’t.”
Patrick Dwyer made it 2-0 at 8:17, redirecting the puck past Neuvirth stick side from the slot with Tim Gleason and Joe Corvo on the assists.
But Washington halved the lead on a rush at 5:56 of the second, as Joey Crabb took Aaron Volpatti’s pass off the left wing in the slot and slammed the puck past Ellis stick side. Karl Alzner had the second assist.
The Capitals tied it on a power play 1:01 into the third, as Ovechkin beat Ellis stick side from the left circle with Troy Brouwer and Nicklas Backstrom on the assists.
It was the 700th NHL point for Ovechkin, the No. 1 pick when the draft was held inside this building in 2004.
Ribeiro got the winner at 17:44, punching the loose puck behind Ellis after Ovechkin had missed from the right doorstep. John Carlson had the second assist.