Hurricanes 4 Capitals 3 (2OT)
WASHINGTON —For six playoff games, the Carolina Hurricanes were the team that wouldn’t go away, that the Washington Capitals couldn’t put away.
It took Game 7 to decide their playoff series. It took two overtimes at Capital One Arena. But the Caps couldn’t finish them off.
The Canes, the inspired team known as “bunch of jerks,” won 4-3 on Brock McGinn’s goal at 11:05 of the second OT. Justin Williams, the Canes captain, centered a pass and McGinn was there for the winner.
The Caps were the defending Stanley Cup champions, hardened by their playoff success. The Canes were making their first playoff appearance since 2009, a new experience for many in the lineup. But none of that mattered with Game 7 on the line.
The Canes are moving on, facing the New York Islanders in the second round. The first game is Friday in Brooklyn.
The Canes trailed 2-0 after the first period and 3-1 in second. But Sebastian Aho’s short-handed goal in the second was much-needed by the Canes, an instant energizer, and Teuvo Teravainen made it a 3-2 game later in the period with a quick shot from the slot on a loose puck.
When Jordan Staal scored off the rush early in the third, taking a pass from Jaccob Slavin and beating goalie Braden Holtby with a well-placed shot from the right circle, the Canes had a 3-3 tie. Anybody’s game. Anybody’s series.
In the first overtime, the Caps’ Brett Connolly flipped the puck over the glass but was not called for a penalty after the referees huddled. The Canes’ Saku Maenalanen was called for delay of game at 2:02 of the second OT but the Canes killed the penalty.
The Caps came inches from taking the lead with 2:20 left in regulation. Tom Wilson, who had scored in the first period, got off a shot, Mrazek hitting the puck toward the goal line with his right skate. But a diving McGinn knocked it out of the crease.
In the first OT, Aho had a couple of scoring chances. Nino Niederreiter drove hard to the net. The Caps’ Alex Ovechkin fired a wicked one-timer, knocking off Mrazek’s mask. The Canes had an 11-4 shooting edge but Holtby had 11 stops.
Making their first playoff appearance since 2009, the Canes hoped to pressure the Caps in Game 7, get them off their game.
“Play it like it’s your last game, because it could be, and give it all you’ve got,” Williams said Wednesday morning.
There’s no stopping Ovechkin at times and one sequence Wednesday was one of those times. After Andre Burakovsky had given the Caps a 1-0 lead, Ovechkin had Capital One Arena thundering. First, he made a spinning move in the neutral zone, bouncing the puck off the boards to himself and leaving defenseman Dougie Hamilton in his wake.
Next, Ovechkin made a dazzling stickhandling move past Slavin to set up Wilson for a one-timer. Wilson didn’t miss, ripping a shot past Mrazek.
Just like that it was 2-0. The Canes, poised and efficient in their 5-2 win in Game 6, appeared a bit rattled. There was nothing smooth about their play, not in their zone.
Burakovsky’s score, his first of the series, came after he forced Brett Pesce to turn over the puck in the corner. Burakovsky made a quick move to the slot and beat Mrazek with a top-shelf shot.
But Aho scored short-handed after getting off a shot that Holtby fumbled out of his glove, Aho then knocking the puck below Holtby’s right pad.
Evgeny Kuznetsov answered with a score off the rush, his first of the season, for the 3-1 lead. But there was Teravainen, scoring his third of the series.
Then Staal. His shot was reminiscent of another Game 7 shot by the Canes —the one Eric Staal made in 2009 to beat New Jersey.