by Kate Shefte
RBC CENTER/RALEIGH - Joe Corvo's two-goal effort...Chad LaRose's late heroics....Ray Whitney's overtime wrister led his team to a 4-3 win over Thursday night. There we go.
If all the Washington goals had counted, the ‘Canes wouldn’t have even made it to overtime. But thanks to a Whitney tally in overtime, Carolina won just its second game of the year after going into the second period down a goal. Corvo's pair couldn’t save the league-leading Capitals, who clinched the Southeast Division last week.
There were two noticeable absences on the ice tonight. League points leader Alex Ovechkin was serving the back end of a two-game suspension for another illegal hit. The ‘Canes announced today that Tim Gleason would miss three weeks with a broken bone in his foot, even though he’d already played two games with the injury. Oh, that Gleason.
“Gleason’s probably the leader of our back end,” defenseman Brett Carson said. “He battles night after night. Obviously not having him in meant some other guys had to step up and play some minutes and I thought we did a pretty good job.”
Carolina got an early break when an apparent goal off the hand of Mike Knuble was waved off immediately with a few minutes left into the first period.
Scott Walker and Corvo have both seen dramatically different and ever-shrinking roles with their new club, the Capitals. Walker sat as a healthy scratch for Washinton's last two games, but due to injury and suspension, he was called upon to suit up tonight. Corvo got things started when he picked up a rebound to make it 1-0 and Walker got the secondary assist. Corvo memorably scored a hat trick the first time he faced the Ottawa Senators after they traded him, and obviously that was the start of a trend of sorts as he wound up close to another tonight.
“[Corvo] played well. It’s kind of a habit for him to score against his old teams, and I read in the paper today that he wasn’t even pissed off at us,” Whitney said. “If he was, we really would have been in trouble.
“It’s good to see them contribute somewhere else. They didn’t win a cup, and Jim did them a good service in giving them a chance to go in and win one.”
Washington received another bad break when the puck bounced past a standing and distracted Justin Peters. But the referee at center ice waved it off, insisting there were too many men on the ice at the time of the goal. So not only were the ‘Canes still down one, but they got a man advantage.
Their good luck turned into a boon when Shaone Morrisonn took a seat with 14 seconds gone in the first infraction. One of the funniest saves I’ve seen in a while game from that one. The ‘Canes surprised Semyon Varlamov with a shot and he literally hopped into the air before sitting on it and scissoring his legs closed in an attempt to smother it.
The ‘Canes were swarming and Eric Staal finally put the Caps out of their misery with a back door goal off a stunning cross-ice Jussi Jokinen feed. Staal jumped ahead of Kevin Dineen for second in franchise history in power play goals. He has a long way to get in order to catch Ron Francis (132) in first. If he keeps at his current pace, it’ll be another six seasons.
Carson, who has been quietly good for the ‘Canes since being called up in December, took a hooking penalty and gave the Capitals two intense minutes of power play. They must have run the same play, passing around behind the net and blasting at a half-empty net from the top of the circle, six times uncontested and each time, the puck went just wide.
Jason Chimera had a breakaway and couldn’t connect with the net. Right after that, Sergei Samsonov gave Walker a high stick for old times’ sake and took the first of back-to-back Carolina penalties to close out the second period. Corvo made the ‘Canes pay again with another power play goal in the final seconds of the second period to make it 2-1.
As mentioned earlier, Carolina has an abysmal winning percentage when trailing after the second period. But Carson wound up at the point with seven minutes left and lobbed a long shot past Varlamov for his second NHL goal. That tied it up at two.
With a minute and a half left, a Hurricane took off down the ice on a completely open breakaway. Who is it? Hopefully Jokinen, or maybe Cole? Nope, it was Chad LaRose, doing using his frantic skating style to dodge his charge and get in front of Varlamov. But LaRose handled the situation with as much poise as a shootout specialist. He deked the goalie out with his back foot and skated around him, Matt Cullen-style, before burying the puck in the top of the net.
But after a, in retrospect, poorly-timed Carolina time-out with 18 seconds left on the clock, Eric Fehr collected a blocked shot and fired it past Peters with Varlamov pulled.
“It would have been nice for Chad [to get his 100th NHL point] as the game winner against the top team in the league. It was just unlucky at the end," Whitney said. "When it bounced to Fehr at the end, I just thought to myself, that’s just the way it’s been for Washington this season. They seem to come back no matter what.”
Washington kept trying that same play over and over again and Corvo almost got his hat trick, but Staal collected the puck and passed it to a streaking Whitney at the “ladies’ tees,” as John Forslund apparently called it at the telecast, right in front of the net. The rest is pretty obvious.
Carolina will face the Penguins on Saturday at 1 p.m. There are just 12 games remaining in the season, and if the ‘Canes’ play tonight is any indication, they might be pretty entertaining. The 'Canes may need to call up another D-man for the game, if there are any left, because Alexandre Picard left the game after being possibly struck by a puck.