No shots in the first 10 minutes, no problem for the Washington Capitals. Once they got the puck on net, it started to go in as they won their sixth in a row with a 3-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes at Verizon Center Thursday night.
“It was a little warm out there and hard to get the legs going, but once we did we found our balance,” defenseman Mike Green said. “They came out and played a great game tonight and we had to match their effort right off the bat. … It was just a battle of attrition and we pulled it through.”
The Caps bolstered their Southeast Division lead and improved to 46 points, two up on the second-place Winnipeg Jets, who beat the Florida Panthers 7-2 Thursday night.
“We knew the importance of this game we came in actually after the second period and saw what the Winnipeg score was and knew we needed to continue to play well,” right wing Troy Brouwer said. “Just the fact that we’re desperate for points right now.”
Alex Ovechkin registered the Caps’ first shot of the evening 10:05 into the first period. By that point, Carolina had outshot Washington 14-0 and taken the lead. Goaltender Braden Holtby overcame some shakiness and kept the deficit at 1-0.
“I remember looking up at the scoreboard and the shots were outrageous and we had nothing,” Green said. “He was outstanding throughout the whole game, I mean even the last five, 10 minutes of the game he made some big saves that should’ve been goals.”
The Caps tilted the ice toward Hurricanes goaltender Justin Peters and finally tied the score 8:08 into the second period on Brouwer’s power-play goal. Brouwer ended a five-game point drought and a six-game goal drought.
Ovechkin credited that goal and the work of the fourth line of Wojtek Wolski, Matt Hendricks and Jay Beagle for the turnaround.
“You can see when the fourth line do their job, like put puck in their zone, just cycle and find the nice play,” the captain said. “Nobody expect it [from] those kind of guys, but Beags do what he’s supposed to do, find the Green and if Greenie have an opportunity to make a goal, it’s probably 80 percent goes in.
Green was able to pick a corner on Peters to give the Caps their first lead of the game. It was Green’s ninth goal of the season in his 28th game, trailing only P.K. Subban for the most among NHL defensemen.
Holtby, who conceded being a little “eratic” when the Hurricanes enjoyed a shooting gallery on him early on, finished with a regular-season career-high 43 saves.
“I think he was play great,” Ovechkin said. “That’s what we need from him.”
Not coincidentally, the Caps won for the 10th time in their past 12 games.