Carolina Hurricanes

Canes rally in third, spoil Caps’ home opener with OT win

The Carolina Hurricanes have done it to the Washington Capitals again.

In overtime, again.

It wasn’t as dramatic as beating the Caps in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoff series, in double overtime, last spring. But Carolina’s 3-2 victory Saturday, in the Caps’ home opener of a new season, again left the Canes celebrating when it over while the Caps slowly, glumly skated off to their locker room.

Jake Gardiner’s goal at 4:04 of the overtime decided it, the defenseman ripping a shot past Caps goalie Braden Holtby. That came after the Canes had killed off a Jordan Staal penalty to begin the overtime -- Carolina was six-for-six on the penalty kill in the game -- and after goalie James Reimer had stopped six Washington shots in the OT.

The Caps were inches away from victory after an Alex Ovechkin one-timer late in the OT power play, but a lunging Reimer kept the puck out and in play.

The Canes trailed 2-0 in the third period but tied the score on Erik Haula’s power-play goal and then Jaccob Slavin’s first goal of the season. Caps fans, in a festive mood much of the night, fell silent. It was total dejection after Gardiner’s strike.

“It’s good to see our team can battle back from a deficit,” Gardiner said. “Obviously, all positive.”

And making his first goal as a Hurricane a game-winner, in overtime?

“That was a fun way to do it, for sure,” said Gardiner, who signed a free-agent contract with Carolina on Sept. 6.

The Caps (2-0-1), who opened the season with road wins against St. Louis and the New York Islanders, had taken the lead on goals from Garnet Hathaway and T.J. Oshie. But Washington was playing its third game in four days to start the season and the Canes were the fresher team much the third period.

Reimer, in his first start for the Canes (2-0-0), had to make some tough saves in the third to give his team a chance as the Caps gamely kept grinding. Reimer had 32 stops in the game, including one tough stop of a spinning Ovechkin backhander.

“We weren’t playing a poor game. We were pretty solid (but) had a couple of bad breaks there,” Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “But we just hung in there and obviously got some huge (penalty) kills in this game. I think that was the story of the game for me.”

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Brett Pesce (22) reaches for the puck against Washington Capitals defenseman Radko Gudas (33) during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass) Nick Wass AP

Some expected the Caps to come out swinging, literally. There’s some bad blood between the teams after last year’s heated Stanley Cup playoff series and there was some war-of-words sniping this past week between Caps coach Todd Reirden and Brind’Amour.

The game was hard-fought but without incident. For the first two periods, it was more about Holtby’s goaltending and some timely goals by the Caps. Holtby was at his best in the first period, denying the Canes’ Sebastian Aho and Martin Necas on breakaways.

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Carolina Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho (20), of Finland, shoots and misses against Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby (70) during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass) Nick Wass AP

The Canes finally broke through in the third on a power play, Haula going to the front of the crease and getting his stick on a Teuvo Teravainen pass.

Haula has goals in each of the first two games, tying the score 3-3 in Thursday’s opener against the Montreal Canadiens as the Canes won 4-3 in a shootout at PNC Arena.

Hathaway scored his first goal with the Caps and Oshie, who had the winner Friday against the Islanders, scored again for the 2-0 lead.

Oshie’s goal had to be reviewed. The forward got his stick on a high bounding puck near the crossbar, knocking it down and then backhanding it past Reimer. Brind’Amour had a few words with referee Chris Rooney about the Oshie goal, but was told there was no high-sticking call to be made since Oshie didn’t knock the puck down and directly into the net.

Brind’Amour did win a coach’s challenge later in the second when Hathaway appeared to score again on a shot from the right wing while Brendan Leipsic crowded Reimer in the crease. Brind’Amour claimed goaltender interference and won the challenge, keeping the score 2-0, a turning point in the game.

Hathaway had given the Caps a 1-0 lead in the first, taking advantage of a Canes turnover in the zone.

The Caps played without forward Evgeny Kuznetsov, who served the final game of a three-game NHL suspension for “inappropriate conduct.”

For the Canes, it was a first look at Reimer, who Carolina picked up in a late-June trade with the Florida Panthers, anticipating goalie Curtis McElhinney leaving in free agency on July 1. Petr Mrazek was the winning goalie in that Game 7 showdown against the Caps in April, but Brind’Amour decided to use him Sunday against Tampa Bay at home and go with Reimer on Saturday.

“We have a back-to-back situation and you don’t want to overload Petr here early on,” Brind’Amour said Saturday morning. “It’s early in the season and just felt that extra day of rest might be beneficial for (Mrazek). You’ve got to pick your poison, right? You’ve got Washington or you’ve got Tampa. We need obviously both guys to play all year, so this is kind of the we’re going to go, especially early on.”

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In more than 30 years at The N&O, Chip Alexander has covered the N.C. State, UNC, Duke and East Carolina beats, and now is in his 11th season on the Carolina Hurricanes beat. Alexander, who has won numerous writing awards at the state and national level, covered the Hurricanes’ move to North Carolina in 1997 and was a part of The N&O’s coverage of the Canes’ 2006 Stanley Cup run.