RALEIGH, N.C. -- Any momentum the Washington Capitals seemed to be building quickly vanished last night.
Defending champion Carolina deflated the young Caps 5-0, leaving them grounded, licking their wounds and realizing how far they have yet to go, how much they have yet to learn.
The Hurricanes scored often, but not at will thanks to a spectacular effort from goalie Brent Johnson, who held his team in the fray for nearly two periods before Carolina pulled away for the rout.
It was the second time this season the Caps were blanked and the first regular-season shutout for Carolina's Cam Ward.
Washington entered the game riding a two-game wining streak and a 6-4-4 record that had the league taking notice.
"This was a lot better for us to lose this game 5-0 rather than Johnny make four more incredible saves and walk out of here kidding ourselves that it was a 1-0 game," Caps coach Glen Hanlon said. "As coaches it loads us with lots of ammunition ... and shows we have a lot of work ahead of us to get to the top."
Despite being outshot by a wide margin, Johnson somehow managed to keep the team in the game through two periods. In fact, it was still a 1-0 game at 7:33 of the second when the turning point came and quickly vanished for the Caps.
Veteran defenseman Glen Wesley took a penalty and was followed to the penalty box by two teammates in just more than a minute, a golden opportunity for the Caps to not only tie but shoot into a good lead. The Caps had two minutes of an overlapping two-man advantage and nearly four minutes of continuous power play time.
Washington got off just four shots with the lengthy advantage, none of them causing Ward to sweat.
At 18:03 of the second, Erik Cole scored his second of the three he would have in the game and for all practical purposes, the game was over.
"The turning point obviously was the second period when we couldn't score on the power play. But [Carolina] is a pretty good team," Hanlon acknowledged. "This is a good tool for us as coaches."
Said Carolina coach Peter Laviolette: "We did a great job of reading it and getting in the shot lanes, trying to take away passes in the seams. We executed pretty well."
After turning aside 11 of 12 shots in the first, Johnson opened the second facing Wesley 1-on-1 then made three tough stops within a span of less than 10 seconds. His position wasn't being made any safer by the fact his teammates were making poor judgments on exit routes out of the zone -- and the Hurricanes were making them pay for all of them.
"We had our chances in the second but [Ward] came up with some stellar saves at key moments," Johnson said. "They came out just flying in the third, it looked like we had a few opportunities but they just kept coming at us. Then we had some breakdowns and there were 2-on-1s, 2-on-1s, a breakaway and they capitalized."
Notes -- Defenseman Jamie Heward (laceration) and right wing Richard Zednik (wrist) were medical scratches last night; the Caps have lost 18 man-games to injury. Carolina, on the other hand, is already above 70 and counting. Healthy scratches for Washington were forwards Kris Beech and Brooks Laich. ...
Johnson's shutout total over three different games he has appeared in lately stopped at 59 minutes, 45 seconds when he gave up a score in the first period.