Tomas Vokoun said during his time as a Washington Capitals goaltender that hockey is sometimes a simple game: You can’t win if you don’t score goals. It’s even harder if you don’t shoot the puck.
For the first 10 minutes Thursday night, the Caps didn’t register a shot. But in beating the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1, they rolled to their sixth straight victory regardless of an performance that was far from complete.
“They had the momentum, they kind of took it to us,” forward Matt Hendricks said. “It wasn’t the start that we envisioned, that we wanted, but the end result was what we wanted.”
The Southeast Division-leading Caps moved to 46 points and remained two up on the second-place Winnipeg Jets, who took care of business against the lowly Florida Panthers. Players had an eye on the scoreboard even while their focus was on the Hurricanes.
“We knew the importance of this game,” said right wing Troy Brouwer, who ended a five-game point drought with a power-play goal. “We came in actually after the second period and saw what the Winnipeg score was and knew we needed to continue to play well. Just the fact that we’re desperate for points right now. We have to keep getting them to stay where we are in the standings. I think just a desperate team came through.”
The Caps looked anything but desperate in the first 10 minutes when the Hurricanes had a shooting gallery on goaltender Braden Holtby.
“We were a little bit sour with ourselves as far as letting them have the opportunities and letting them get the momentum early in the game,” Brouwer said.
Coach Adam Oates worried about a letdown and cautioned his team against it, but that didn’t stop Carolina from opening up a 14-0 shot advantage in the first half of the first period.
“I remember looking up at the scoreboard and the shots were outrageous and we had nothing,” defenseman Mike Green said.
The Hurricanes led 1-0 on Jeff Skinner’s four-on-three power-play goal, but it could have been worse.
“We were getting outplayed,” defenseman John Carlson said. “But after a while we found ourselves only down one goal and obviously Holtsy was big for us in keeping us in the game until we got our own energy and started taking it back to them.”
When ex-Caps winger Alexander Semin took an offensive-zone tripping penalty midway through the first, Alex Ovechkin fired Washington’s first shot on net 10:05 into the period. Green said Semin’s penalty “sparked” the Caps.
From there, they tilted the ice toward Justin Peters and began the onslaught. Brouwer’s power-play goal seemed like an inevitability, and Green’s ninth of the season less than three minutes later completed the Caps’ turnaround.
Ovechkin credited the fourth line of Wojtek Wolski, Matt Hendricks and Jay Beagle for getting the Caps going and creating Green’s goal.
“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. Great shot and it give us confidence and we know we’re gonna play our game; we’re not gonna sit back and give them any chances.”