- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 22, 2009

RALEIGH, N.C. | A pair of goals by defensemen in typically uncharted territory ended the Washington Capitals‘ four-game road swing through the Southeast Division on a negative note.

Carolinadefensemen Joni Pitkanen and Anton Babchuk scored on rebounds inches away from Washington goaltender Jose Theodore in the third period to lead the surging Hurricanes to a 4-1 win Saturday night at RBC Center.

“It was a pretty good hockey game for the most part - it was 1-1 after two [periods], and both teams had pretty close to the same number of chances,” Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We made a couple of mistakes to get it open, and that was it.”

Pitkanen gave the Hurricanes the lead 4:42 into the final period. Theodore stopped Eric Staal’s shot from the left circle, but Pitkanen was able to scoop up the rebound unimpeded and shovel a backhand shot over the fallen netminder.

Babchuk added an insurance marker at 13:43 in a four-on-four situation. Theodore turned aside the first shot, but Babchuk was alone in front to bang in the rebound.

The Caps carried the play in the first period, outshooting the Hurricanes 10-4. But Carolina came back strong in the second, and Washington was never able to reclaim momentum in the final 20 minutes.

“We played real tight in the first and didn’t turn the puck over, but then we started turning pucks over in the second period,” defenseman Brian Pothier said. “That’s what they thrive on. They’re a transition team that is very effective - when you make a mistake, they capitalize.”

Washington lost for only the second time in seven games, but the Caps failed to move back in front of the idle New Jersey Devils for second in the Eastern Conference. Carolina, which hasn’t made the playoffs since winning the Stanley Cup in 2005-06, is 7-1-2 in its past 10 contests and in sixth in the conference.

“In the second period it seemed like we got frustrated because things weren’t working for us,” defenseman Jeff Schultz said. “We started trying to do these extra things at the blue line instead of getting it deep, and they kind of picked it up another notch and brought it to us.”

Hurricanes captain Rod Brind’Amour put Carolina in front early in the second period. Thanks to a couple of breakdowns by the Caps, Jussi Jokinen collected the puck in the left corner with no interference and hit an unmarked Brind’Amour in the slot at 3:53.

“I haven’t seen the replays yet, but I’d like know why there was a guy all by himself in front of the net,” Boudreau said of Carolina’s first three goals.

For the second straight game, Mike Green scored in the final minute of a period, with the latest goal leveling the contest at 1-1. Nicklas Backstrom’s centering pass on a rush from near the left corner was knocked away from the crease by Carolina’s Tim Gleason, but the puck ended up on Green’s stick. He blasted a shot from inside the right circle that just sneaked inside the top left corner of the goal.

It was Green’s 28th of the season and fifth in four games. Green is halfway to his NHL scoring record for defensemen. Earlier this season, he had at least one goal in eight consecutive games.

Alex Ovechkin thought he had the first tally of the game midway through the first period, but his goal was waved off because Backstrom had committed a hooking penalty just before Ovechkin got the puck.

After the game, Boudreau expressed unhappiness with the officiating, citing a diving call on Tomas Fleischmann and a roughing penalty assessed to Green after he was high-sticked by Pitkanen that prevented an extra-man chance for his team.

“We should have had two or three more power plays,” Boudreau said. “If somebody looks at these [plays] - just look at them and tell me what you think. I’ve looked at them five times, and I don’t see where these calls are. I just can’t see them. It is my humble opinion, but holy frig, in my estimation there were some really iffy calls.”

Notes - Forward Chris Bourque was recalled from Hershey of the American Hockey League to replace Quintin Laing on the roster. …

Left wing Donald Brashear missed his sixth straight game with a sprained knee.

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