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Capitals @ Hurricanes Game 6 Recap: Carolina Staves Off Elimination, Forces Game Seven In D.C.

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The Caps return home for a series-deciding clincher on Wednesday night.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Washington Capitals at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Capitals were unable to finish off the Hurricanes on the road, and the trend of the home team winning continued as Carolina force a series-deciding game seven in a 5-2 victory.

Here’s Monday night’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: If you needed a reason to build up a little animosity towards a once-in-a-decade playoff team and their fanbase, tonight was your lucky night!

Minus:

And now, this...

Ten more notes on the game:

1. With puck possession hard to come by in the opening moments of the contest, an undisputed chippiness that we’ve seen as a function of injuries to both sides came to a head with big hits, taunting, and post-whistle extracurricular activities a-plenty. The Capitals though were able to keep their heads and cash in on a mistake by Sebastian Aho to go puck-chasing below the goal line, Andre Burakovsky and Lars Eller connected with Brett Connolly caught Petr Mrazek leaning the wrong way and roofed the puck in the top shelf to give Washington the all-important first goal of the contest. The goal was Connolly’s second of the series. To this point, the team that struck first came away the victors.

The goal also marked the first time a home team trailed in any game in the series, and it clearly made an impact on what has been a very rambunctious PNC Arena, as the raucous home crowd became palpably more nervous and tight. I say this having witnessed it first hand on more than a few occasions in D.C.

2. The jitters wouldn’t last long as Warren Foegele brought the game back to even at the conclusion of the Hurricanes first powerplay, which had what amounted to an extended 5-on-3 when Nick Jensen’s stick broke midway through the kill. Washington’s inability to clear the puck at the end of the kill set up Foegele’s fourth goal of the series.

3. With under five minutes left in the opening period, a deke by Alex Ovechkin past a sliding Jaccob Slavin tipped the scales back in Washington’s favor to give the Caps a 2-1 lead. The goal was the fourth of the series and his 65th career playoff marker, surpassing Peter Forsberg, Yvan Cournoyer, Brian Propp, and Bobby Smith for the 22nd most playoff goals in NHL history.

4. For what it was worth (not a lot!) as was the case in the majority of games this series, Carolina dominated in shot attempts (28-8) through the first period, though it rarely felt that way as an observer.

Despite some bad giveaways in the defensive zone Washington was extremely stout blocking eight shots in the first frame compared to just one for Carolina.

5. A soft-clearing attempt by Jonas Siegenthaler behind his own net along the glass found Teuvo Teravainen open in the slot, where he deposited the puck into the net for the second time this series, tying the game at two. The assist came from Aho, continuing a troubling trend of the two line-mates scoring points now 44 times this season.

Washington held Carolina off the board on an ensuing Tom Wilson slashing penalty, just first infraction of the series.

6. After killing off a Justin Williams Penalty, the Cane-turned-Capital-turned-Cane had a goal waived off as he played the puck with a high stick as he broke from the penalty box.

Washington was only able to muster one shot on their first man-advantage, as they played overly-unselfish hockey, opting to make too many passes in lieu of taking advantage of opportunities to shoot the puck. By midway through the period, Carolina doubled Washington’s shot total by a 22-11 margin. The Hurricanes held the Caps without a shot on goal on their ensuing powerplay opportunity in which Washington struggled to maintain possession of the puck even momentarily. In total, Washington went to the locker room with 14 total shots, seven in each of the first two periods.

7. Carolina took the first lead change of the games, and indeed the series as a flurry of bodies in front resulted in a Jordan Staal sliding the puck under Braden Holtby’s pads on a backhand between two Caps defenders for the 3-2 lead. Staal continued his reign of terror against the Washington, after having recorded four points (2g, 2a) in Pittsburgh’s seven-game series win over Washington in the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals.

8. With 13:45 left in the third, Chandler Stephen went to the box for a two-minute tripping penalty, giving the Hurricanes a prime opportunity to extend their lead, though Washington was able to fend off a bevy of Carolina shots on the man-advantage. Mrazek and Holtby both made sparkling saves at both ends on the possessions following the kill.

9. But then, Washington found their spark. The top line stormed down the ice and some fancy stick-work by the here-to-forth quiet Evgeny Kuznutzov deposited the puck beneath Mrazek into the net -- but wait the call on the ice was no goal. Washington celebrated as though they had scored. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the call on the ice stood: no goal.

The captain was not pleased:

10. Et tu Justin? The Carolina captain made it 4-2 Carolina with 8:02 remaining, having surged all the momentum off of the unconscionably bad no-call at the other end. An empty net goal from Dougie Hamilton cemented the final, 5-2 for the Hurricanes.

It was never going to be easy, though it certainly never needed to be this hard. While this was a frustratingly poorly officiated game that gave Carolina some home cookin’, the Capitals did themselves no favors with sloppy passes, slow breakouts, and an inability to cash in on the opportunities afforded to them.

The Hurricanes played their best game tonight, an came out ready to compete like a team that knew a loss meant hitting the golf course, Washington played like… well certainly not the team that won the Stanley Cup last year. All that matters now is that Washington has a chance to clinch a series at home for the first time since 2015, when they defeated the Islanders, whom they stand to meet in the second round — all it will take is being the better team over their next 60 minutes of hockey on Wednesday night.