By Bill Sands
Late in the third period on Friday night, things were not looking good for the Washington Capitals. Down 3-2 with just over three minutes to play, the team was on the verge of losing both games of a back-to-back with the Carolina Hurricanes and heading into the bye week with a costly pair of losses.
Carolina had control in their own zone, but a costly turnover by Noah Hanifin put the puck right on the stick of Brett Connolly, who made no mistake in firing a quick shot past goalie Cam Ward.
With the game on the verge of overtime, Washington’s top line made sure that 60 minutes were all that would be needed. Alex Ovechkin (1 goal, 2 assists) barreled into the zone with five seconds left and Nicklas Backstrom won a battle to gain control of the puck. With the clock running out, Backstrom threw it on net, where Jay Beagle was waiting to slam it home with just over a second left to give Washington the win.
After losing 3-1 on Thursday, the Caps got off to a slow start once again, surrendering a power-play goal to Jordan Staal. The Hurricanes worked the puck around with ease and found Staal open in the slot just ten seconds after Brett Connolly was whistled for interference.
Washington got even four minutes later after an extended goal-mouth scramble. After Ovechkin missed on a scoring chance in tight, Cam Ward lost his net and chaos ensued. At least three Caps converged on the crease trying to find the loose puck while Jaccob Slavin dropped to his knees and did his best street hockey goalie impression. After what felt like a full minute, Jakub Vrana slammed a shot off the post and the rebound bounced off Lars Eller and into the net.
The Caps took the lead early in the second. Ovechkin ripped a one-timer from his usual spot and made it 2-1. The lead was short-lived however, as the Canes would respond with another power-play goal, this time just five seconds after the Caps were sent to the box. After a faceoff win by Staal, Sebastian Aho unleashed his own shot from the point and beat Phillipp Grubauer up high to make it 2-2.
Carolina took its second lead of the game when Jeff Skinner, always a threat when he plays Washington, burned John Carlson with a nice move and sniped one short-side on Grubauer. It was all for naught, unfortunately, thanks to Beagle’s heroics.
The Caps now head into the bye week with a good feeling. Washington next plays on Thursday the 18th, when the team makes a trip to New Jersey to take on the Devils.