RALEIGH, N.C. | Down two goals to the Carolina Hurricanes for the second time in three nights, the Washington Capitals could have fallen into the same trap that doomed them back home. But at the first intermission everything changed.
All of a sudden the Caps started dominating. They were the aggressors and carried the play, and eventually it paid off as they came back to beat the Hurricanes 3-2 on Thursday at PNC Arena to snap their losing streak at three.
“That’s huge,” tough guy Aaron Volpatti said. “You can’t afford to go four or five games without a point or a win, especially in our position. It doesn’t matter how we did it. We got it done and it’ll be big for us here.”
The Southeast Division deficit is down to eight points, and the Caps ended the night seven points back of a playoff spot. It’s the best they could have hoped for.
This was as close to a must-win game as the Caps could have.
“We’re aware that every point’s important right now and every game’s important,” right wing Joey Crabb said. “We know that going down 2-0 in the first period isn’t good, but we also knew that if we play our game and play our systems and work hard, then we have the skill to finish the plays and we were lucky enough to do that tonight and get a win.”
During the first period the Caps showed little of that urgency and desperation as they fell behind 2-0 on goals by Alexander Semin and Patrick Dwyer. It could have been worse if not for 14 saves by Michal Neuvirth.
Out of intermission, even playing with five defensemen after Tomas Kundratek left with a right leg injury, the Caps had a spark. They so thoroughly out-skated the Hurricanes in the second period that coach Kirk Muller’s bunch looked like it was in slow motion.
“I thought we just have to stay with it,” right wing Joel Ward said. “It wasn’t going to be an easy game. Obviously they won the last game and we knew that they were going to come out and give us some pressure. We just had to regroup, start fresh and Neuvy made some big saves for us to keep us in.”
Volpatti made the Caps’ most important play of the night with a perfect centering pass to Crabb that set up Washington’s first goal. It was evidence of the life they showed after falling behind 2-0.
Alex Ovechkin tied the scored at 2 on a power-play goal in the third, enough to give the Caps another shot of confidence.
Ovechkin hit the post with a wide-open net with under three minutes left, but Mike Ribeiro was there to tap the puck over the goal line. After review, it was ruled that the puck did make it all the way over, giving the Caps a much-needed victory by perhaps a fraction of an inch.”
“That’s kind of situation when [you get mad at yourself] if it’s no go in,” Ovechkin said. “Thanks God referee make the right call and it goes in. it doesn’t matter if I score or Ribs score.”