Brandon Sutter, Matt Cullen, and Joni Pitkanen all made surprising and simultaneous comebacks, giving the Hurricanes a line-up that was closer to normal than it has been on months. However, if this game was an indication of how their bolstered line-up is going to play, the ‘Canes are in deep trouble. If wunderkind Alexander Semin didn’t score it, he set it up, and the Hurricanes were crushed by a Southeast Division opponent in their second straight game.
“We’re only fooling ourselves if we think we’re playing the right way right now,” Scott Walker said after the game. “It’s not a matter of systems or design out there, you have to want to get back there, you have to want the puck. We’re just not getting it done, and it’s unacceptable.”
The Hurricanes are now missing only Patrick Eaves and Justin Williams from their ranks. The team couldn’t get anything going against the Capitals again and fell, 5-1, giving up the division lead and losing back-to-back games in regulation for the first time this season. Those who were hoping for a quick fix didn’t get it; the Hurricanes obviously need time to gel and adjust after being without these players for so long.
Aside from Brandon Sutter, who boosted the Hurricanes’ penalty kill, Laviolette said he didn’t “think anyone really stood out” from the injured players in their first game back.
With Carolina employing both of its defensemen on the rush and pushing too far into the offensive zone – yet again – Alexander Semin and Alexander Ovechkin slipped by on a two-on-one. Tim Gleason, stuck in the middle, went with the safer choice, attempting to sweep the puck off of NHL second leading scorer Semin. Gleason missed, and although Ovechkin is currently mired in a scoring slump, he hasn’t forgotten how to torture a Carolina goaltender. He forced Michael Leighton down and tossed the puck over his head effortlessly.
Semin struck again at 10:32 in the first. While the RBC Center staff recognized America’s finest a day after Veteran’s day, Semin took the puck and sent it top-shelf seconds after a faceoff. Most fans didn’t even realize what had happened until the goal light flashed overhead.
“We’re not creating a lot of rush chances,” Rod Brind’Amour said. “Everything is dumping and chasing. It’s a good way to dominate a game, but not a good way to score goals.”
That was when Scott Walker decided that it was time to shock the Capitals right back. Moments after Milan Jurcina went off for delay of game, Walker pounced on a fortuitous bounce off the end boards and sent it past Brent Johnson.
Mike Green restored the two-goal lead on Washington’s only power play of the period less than three minutes later.
Staal whiffed on three – three! – back door chances on a wide-open net with the Hurricanes on a lengthy 5-on-3. Staal hung his head as though he couldn’t believe it, and ‘Canes fans couldn’t either. Staal amassed 3 shots on goal and 3 missed shots but finished the night minus-2.
Semin made it 4-1 halfway through the second period. Leighton stopped the hard slap shot after a bad giveaway, but the puck trickled under his pad.
After the second period, the Hurricanes managed a few good chances, but once the fifth goal went in, the team left Michael Leighton out to dry and the players and coaches looked anxious to get out of the game.
In what little positive news Fox Sports South watchers were given during the game, Williams said on the telecast that he was less than two weeks away from returning, but hopefully he will take it easy. He rushed it last year, played a few shifts, and didn’t return.