The Washington Capitals got a much needed 5-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night, to end their losing streak at three. The win also ended a six-game road losing streak. Beating a tough division rival Hurricanes team took a strong team effort; the game was a lot closer than the final outcome indicated.
Chris Clark opened the scoring for Washington with a fluke goal. Hurricane defenseman David Tanabe tried to knock down a puck that Clark had harmlessly dumped diagonally into the zone and it bounced into the net. Carolina goaltender John Grahame had left his crease to play the puck in the corner and looked on helplessly as he could not make it back to his net in time. Clark extended his scoring streak to four games, Washington took a 1-0 lead, and it looked like the bounces were going the Capitals' way.
Washington's second goal of the game came on a power play half way through the second period. Alexander Semin took a draw from Dainius Zubrus, stepped around a Hurricane forward, and fired a wrist shot over Grahame's shoulder for his team-leading 13th power play goal of the season.
Semin continued his hot hand and also scored the Capitals third goal of the game. After Erik Cole had pulled Carolina back to within one at 2-1 early in the final period, Semin broke in on Grahame on a breakaway and netted his 27th goal of the year mid-way through the third. Donald Brashear and Jamie Heward assisted on the goal, but it was all Semin. He slipped in behind the Carolina defense in the neutral zone, picked up a puck that was being cleared out of the Caps zone, and drove straight for the Hurricane net. The Carolina defenseman from the opposite side took a good angle back to the net to get to Semin, but the Russian shielded the puck beautifully with his body to fend him off, made a quick move to his forehand in front of Grahame, and pocketed his second goal of the game.
Semin has been good all season, but right now he's on fire. It was his fourth multiple goal game in January alone. He is now third in league power play goals behind only Teemu Selanne and Marian Hossa. His 27 goals are good for seventh overall in league scoring, and he is just two goals behind comrade Alex Ovechkin.
But even with Semin's back-to-back goals, the Caps were on their heels as they tried to fend off the Hurricane attack. Just a few minutes after Semin had spread the lead to two, Eric Staal scored and got the Hurricanes back to within one again.
The Hurricanes pressed hard for a tying goal over the final minutes, but Caps' goalie Olaf Kolzig was on his game. The Hurricanes couldn't beat Olie again down the stretch, despite fifteen third period shots. Kolzig stopped 34 shots in all and won yet another game that saw him face over 35 shots. The win gave Kolzig 260 career wins, tying him for 30th best all-time with former Minnesota North Stars great Gilles Meloche.
With exactly one minute to go, Clark netted an empty netter for his second of the game and nineteenth goal of the season. The Capitals captain now needs just one more goal to equal the career best twenty goals that he put up last year. Washington's captain might also be Washington's most improved player, and his goal sealed the fate of the 'Canes on Thursday.
With nothing to lose at 4-2, Carolina kept goalie Grahame out of the net for the extra attacker. With forty seconds to go Ovechkin ended his three-game scoring 'drought' when he added a second Caps empty net goal.
Ovechkin and his fellow Caps now head back home from their four game road trip to face the Florida Panthers on Saturday night. Florida lost 3-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night and will be looking to rebound and go into the All-Star break on a winning note. It should be a good game, and it's one that Washington needs to win to keep pace in the Eastern Conference.
It is a Family Pack night at the Verizon Center, so fans can get a great deal on tickets and catch the Capitals in their last game before Ovechkin heads off to represent Washington at the All-Star game.