Here are five takeaways from the Carolina Hurricanes’ 4-3 loss Friday to the Washington Capitals.
▪ Canes coach Bill Peters said all regulation losses feel the same — “No points,” he said — but this one was a gut punch for the Canes.
On a day when there was much for the franchise to celebrate, with new owner Tom Dundon being formally introduced at a press conference, the loss was a downer, pure and simple. Leading the Washington Capitals 3-2 with a little more than three minutes to play in regulation, the Canes allowed two goals, lost 4-3 and walked away from the game with nothing.
The Canes, in wild-card playoff position, could have added to their lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“It’s not a good feeling when you lose and probably a little bit worse feeling when you lose like that,” forward Jeff Skinner said.
▪ With 10 seconds left in regulation and the score tied 3-3, Caps defenseman John Carlson had the puck behind the Washington net with Canes forward Justin Williams in pursuit. Overtime appeared likely.
But Carlson got the puck up the left wing to Alex Ovechkin, who carried it into the Carolina zone before losing control. Canes forward Brock McGinn had a play on the puck, but Caps center Nicklas Backstrom took it away and passed to Jay Beagle for the winning goal with 1.3 seconds remaining in regulation.
“It’s a mental thing,” Williams said. “It’s situational responsibility and play that we have to do better. Situationally, we need to be smarter, and certainly my play there at the end is one of those reasons. A play in the first period might not be a play you make in the third period. That’s what we’ve got to learn from.”
▪ There are no-calls in the course of every game, plays where the referees are out of position or don’t see a quick stick strike a player.
It was hard to miss Jordan Staal getting high-sticked by the Caps’ Evgeny Kuznetsov late in regulation. Kuznetsov caught Staal in the mouth, leaving the center’s lips bloodied.
“Yep, it was a stick in the face in front of (the ref) and he chose not to call it,” Staal said.
The Canes had twice scored on power plays in the game. Had the double-minor been called and the power play extended to overtime it would have been a four-on-three advantage for Carolina.
“Pretty obvious, right?” Canes coach Bill Peters said.
▪ Staal’s shorthanded goal helped the Canes beat the Caps on Thursday and his power-play goal Friday gave the Canes a 1-0 lead.
The Canes scored again on the power play, Sebastian Aho ripping a shot in the second period, and Jeff Skinner’s third-period score gave the Canes a 3-2 lead.
“We played a great game,” Staal said. “A couple mistakes there at the end, obviously. It hurt but we had a lot of guys step up and play really well. I thought we controlled most of the game.”
But not the final three minutes. That cost the Canes at least one point and maybe two.
▪ There’s little doubt Jeff Skinner plays better with Lee Stempniak in the lineup. It’s almost like a big brother/little brother kind of thing — Skinner has often dropped by the Stempniak house for meals and to play with Stempniak’s kids — and there is good chemistry on the ice.
Stempniak’s first game this season also included Skinner’s 14th goal of the season and it came off a Stempniak pass from the wall.
“It’s nice to see ‘Stemper’ back out there,” Skinner said. “He’s real smart, really skilled and strong on the walls. It’s easy to read off a guy like that because he consistently makes good plays.”