Some of the Capitals players and coach Bruce Boudreau know where the Hurricanes are at right now – on the edge of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference with every game meaning the season. The 2008 Caps were that way, and they went 9-1 down the stretch to get in.
That will still be a tall order for Carolina, but it’s not surprising that it had a spark Tuesday night in its 3-2 shootout victory at Verizon Center, though there are mixed feelings about whether Washington matched that intensity.
Alex Ovechkin said “it was like a playoff game for them,” and John Carlson said he and his teammates “were just kinda coasting a little bit instead of pushing the envelope.” Boudreau didn’t necessarily agree.
“I don’t know if the word couldn’t match the intensity of the Hurricanes was really it,” he said. “I thought at times it was a very lackluster game. If you don’t play with emotion, it’s tough. When we played with emotion I thought we were fine.”
At times, Boudreau was absolutely right. The Caps at times were buzzing and finished with 40 shots on goal.
“They’re pretty desperate. I thought they came at us pretty good, but I thought we matched it fairly well for the first game coming home, and Alex and [Jason Arnott] really haven’t practiced too much, and I was a little worried about that,” Boudreau said. “But I thought we were fine.”
Fine doesn’t win a game like this in the springtime with Carolina playing every game like it really could be its last meaningful one. Not when you take six minor penalties (giving the Hurricanes give power plays) and surrender a soft goal in the final period as Semyon Varlamov did Tuesday night.
Boudreau blamed the penalties – and singled out Alexander Semin for his hooking penalty late in the third – though he didn’t want to bash Varlamov, who’s 0-1-1 since returning from a knee injury.
“I don’t wanna get down on our goalies, though,” Boudreau said. “They’ve been really good. They’re allowed to have a bad goal, we should be able to pick them up if that’s the case.”
But the Caps were unable to do it.
“I think we obviously took too many penalties, and that got momentum for them,” center Marcus Johansson said.
Now the Caps go about trying to recapture theirs – because they’re by no means locked into the second spot in the conference.
“Every team we wanna play we want them to have something to play for. And we still have a lot to play for,” Boudreau said. “So we’re not my any stretch of the means taking a vacation until the playoffs.”