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Caps vs. Canes Recap: Carolina Snaps Caps Home Streak, Wins 3-1

The Washington Capitals fell to the visiting Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 at Capital One Arena Thursday night.

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Looking to set the tone against their division rival during the first leg of a home-and-home, the Washington Capitals fell to the Hurricanes 3-1 in DC.

Here’s Thursday night’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: Lars Eller continues to play like a Great Dane, recording his third goal in three games tonight.

Minus: Carolina’s Victor Rask, He Who Is Not Kin Of Tuukka, lit up Washington again tonight, beating the Caps for his third goal in the last two games against them.

And now, this...

Ten more notes on the game:

1. The Carolina Hurricanes blew into town Thursday night like a clinical tropical depression, a point south of playoff position and towing back-to-back losses. AND SPEAKING OF BACK-TO-BACKS, tonight’s contest was the first leg of a home-and-home pairing that puts the Capitals in Raleigh to face the Hurricanes again tomorrow night.

2. Back in town again was your favorite hairdo and mine, and the stud attached to it, Justin Williams. His last time inside Capital One Arena was just back on January 2nd, when the Caps played the Canes and Washington won 5-4. J-Will recorded an assist that game, and has 26 points so far on the year, but had just two in his last five contests.

After the game, I found Williams waiting outside the Washington locker room, chatting amicably with healthy scratch Taylor Chorney. Good to know there’s no ill will between the ‘Do and the Dudes.

3. Absent for tonight’s clash was Swedish übercutie Andre Burakovsky, out with an undisclosed “illness.” Was it the flu? Ebola? Getting traded? The question remained unanswered at puck drop.

4.The first period flew by, with the two clubs trading 20 total shots in the first frame alone. Goalies Braden Holtby and Scott Darling were up to the task, though, keeping this one scoreless at the first horn.

5. The second period proceeded without issue until about seven minutes left in the frame. Carolina’s Josh Jooris (Galactic High Chancellor) took a holding penalty and went to the box for two minutes. On the ensuing power play, John Carlson and Alex Ovechkin hit the ol’ switcheroo in positioning. But unused to the new angle, Carlson threw a totally ill-advised pass across the point to Ovechkin. Too shallow, the pass was snagged and intercepted by Jordan Staal, who took it all the way the other way and beat Holtby to make it 1-0 Hurricanes on a short-handed event even more dissatisfying than your first time intimately soloing.

6. But Great Dane Lars “The Lartian” Eller answered back for the Capitals four minutes later, firing a massive slapshot from the top of the circles that tucked itself into bed and the back of the net, tying the game at 1-1 at the second intermission.

7. Halfway through the third period, the Canes began to push the Capitals harder, eventually breaking through on a quick shot from Victor Rask, Caps-stabber from their last meeting as well. The Hurricanes jumped out to a one-goal lead late, 2-1.

8. An empty-net dagger from Sebastian “Your Mom’s” Aho was all she wrote, and Carolina took this one 3-1.

9. Even in a losing effort, Braden Holtby was phenomenal, saving 30-of-32 shots for a .936 save percentage.

I asked Holtby what the team needs to do differently tomorrow night to avoid a repeat of a goaltender’s nightmare: a 30-save, one-goal loss. He said, “They came up with a pretty good game plan on the forecheck. I feel like we struggled with dealing with them, not necessarily execution. They seemed to be in the right place at the right time. That’s going to be on us for tomorrow to do the homework and figure out how to break the system, ‘cause there’s always a way. We just got to figure it out.”

10. Tonight's L was Washington's first at home in a blue moon, snapping a 10-game home winning streak.

The Capitals will have to get right back on the mid-Atlantic coastal horse, because next up is the Hurricanes in Raleigh again tomorrow (Friday) night.

Lars Eller, speaking about facing the same squad less than 24 hours hence, told me, “Hopefully we’ll learn from some of the mistakes we made tonight, and have some more urgency and desperation in our game. I think that’s what was lacking tonight.”

He added, “The key for us tomorrow is to use this loss as fuel.”

Rest up, and get ready.

Game highlights: