Canes’ Aho: “It’s all about wins right now”
Playoff hockey is coming to Raleigh, finally.
The Carolina Hurricanes will need a victory, badly.
The Canes played hard and played well for the most part Saturday in Game 2 against the Washington Capitals, but lost 4-3 in overtime to fall behind 2-0 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series.
A goal by defenseman Brooks Orpik from the left circle at 1:48 of overtime decided it. It was a sudden winner for the Caps and a jolt to the Canes, who rallied twice in regulation to tie the score and then force overtime at Capital One Arena.
The Hurricanes have not hosted a Stanley Cup playoff game since 2009. But PNC Arena figures to be filled and loud when Game 3 is played Monday night.
“I hope we get a good lift,” Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “Our fans are excited. It’s been a long time coming.
“It’s tough right now. The loss obviously stings. But we’ll be refreshed and ready to go and we’ll give them a good show.”
Tom Wilson’s goal, on a shot from the right circle off the rush, had given the Caps a 3-2 lead with 11:05 left in regulation. But the Canes tied the score 3-3 on a power play, as Jordan Staal redirected a Dougie Hamilton shot with five minutes remaining in the third.
Canes goalie Petr Mrazek, who took a heavy shot off the mask during the game, made a glove save on a Wilson shot in front of the crease with less than two minutes left in the third. Mrazek then made what he called a “reflex save” on a John Carlson shot from the slot in the final seconds of regulation.
In overtime, Canes defenseman Brett Pesce lost his stick trying to make a play in the neutral zone. Forward Teuvo Teravainen handed Pesce his stick, then tried to go low to block the shot by Orpik, who came off the bench on a change to unleash the winner.
For the second straight game, the Canes fell behind early. For the second straight game, the Canes fought back despite losing forward Micheal Ferland, who was ejected in the second period on a call that had Brind’Amour and Ferland steaming.
In Game 1, it was a 3-0 deficit. On Saturday, first-period goals by Nicklas Backstrom — his third in the series — and T.J. Oshie staked the Caps to a 2-0 lead midway through the period.
The Canes’ fourth line produced a first-period score, with some strong forechecking resulting in a Lucas Wallmark goal. They then tied the score 2-2 in the second as Sebastian Aho converted on a sharp-angle shot.
Aho, the Canes’ leading scorer, had gone 15 games without a goal, including Game 1. But that ended after Justin Williams sent the puck banging off the end boards and Aho, at the post to goalie Braden Holtby’s right, quickly popped the puck off Holtby’s leg and into the net.
The 4-2 loss to the Caps in Game 1 had the Canes talking about the need to both stay out of the penalty box and kill off penalties if they were called. The Canes’ penalty killers were tested again Saturday.
Ferland received a five-minute match penalty at 4:09 of the second period after a collision with Nic Dowd. Brind’Amour was livid over the call, as animated as he has been in this season.
Dowd, who briefly left the game, had his head down when Ferland banged into him, a point Brind’Amour angrily made to the ref. It also angered Brind’Amour that the Caps’ Alex Ovechkin had hit Brock McGinn in the head in the first, receiving only a two-minute elbowing penalty.
“I thought it was a clean hit and I don’t agree with the call,” Ferland said. “I don’t think I deserve to be suspended. I take pride in my game, in being a clean hitter. I never want to hurt anybody.”
But the Canes got the hard work done, working they way through the Ferland penalty. Had their power play been sharper, especially on 67 seconds of a 5-on-3 in the second, it would have been a dominant period.
“That was a big turning point in the game,” Brind’Amour said of the 5-on-3.
The Caps came into the game wanting better 5-on-5 play after managing just 13 shots in 5-on-5 play in Game 1. They got it as Backstrom and then Oshie scored in the first period for the 2-0 lead.
In Game 1, the Caps had two power-play goals in the first period in taking a 3-0 lead. The Canes made it a tight game in the third as rookie forward Andrei Svechnikov scored twice to make it a one-goal game before the Caps sealed it with an empty-net score in the final minute.
Brind’Amour made one lineup change for Game 2, inserting forward Saku Maenalanen for Greg McKegg. Maenalanen figured in the Wallmark goal, getting in front of Holtby.
“We have to take all the positives that I think we played two games hard here,” Mrazek said. “We battled hard. They got the win on their side today but we have to put it behind us.”