Sometimes a goalie just has another team’s number despite no obvious explanation for why that might be. For the Washington Capitals, one of the goaltenders who has owned them in recent times is Justin Peters, who unfortunately got the nod for the Carolina Hurricanes Tuesday night at Verizon Center in what was virtually a must-win game for the home team.
Running his personal shutout streak against Washington to over 120 minutes (dating back to 2010), Peters stopped all 26 shots he faced to help Carolina continue its torrid play in a 4-0 triumph. With the Hurricanes’ big guns mostly held in check, Riley Nash scored two goals and Patrick Dwyer added a goal and an assist.
Carolina defenseman Joe Corvo scored the only goal Peters would need early in the first period. After an offensive zone faceoff win by Eric Staal, former Cap Alexander Semin threw a seemingly harmless puck over to the boards. Corvo pinched in to claim it, and his bad angle shot from below the goal line ricocheted off the shoulder or mask of Braden Holtby and into the net.
Nash did all of his damage in the next period, but it was his second goal that was both emblematic of Washington’s bouts of poor play this year and the proverbial dagger. Jeff Schultz was unable to touch up a puck that would have been icing on the Hurricanes, and Dwyer was able to find Nash cruising through the slot to beat Holtby high on the glove side.
The Hurricanes were able to stay disciplined as well, though the home fans expressed their disagreement on several occasions over non-calls by the officials. Jussi Jokinen took the only minor for the visitors until Staal went off for hooking with less than two minutes left in regulation, and even that turned out badly for the Caps when Dwyer scored a shorthanded goal into an empty net.
Rookie defenseman Steven Oleksy provided one of the team’s few bright spots when he engaged in his first NHL fight, a pretty decisive victory over Drayson Bowman. Fellow blueliner Cameron Schilling made his NHL debut the same day he was called up from Hershey, logging 11:58 of ice time and finishing at a -1.
Alex Ovechkin was held without a point for the third straight game (and didn’t even get a shot on goal), tying his longest drought of the season, as was Mike Ribeiro, who hadn’t even gone back-to-back games without a point until this stretch. Marcus Johansson had the best scoring chances of the night but was unable to finish them.
The Capitals will get a chance for immediate payback on Thursday, but their situation is even more dire now that they’ve fallen 10 points behind the Hurricanes in the Southeast race. As Karl Alzner put it during his post-game comments, the desperation level is “High. Very high.”
The game was over when…
Peters was penciled in as the starter, apparently. A career minor leaguer who has never played more than 12 games in any single NHL season, he nonetheless has had great success the past few years against the Caps. Last season he only had to stop 17 shots on February 20 to earn a shutout, and while Washington didn’t make him do anything amazing, he got the job done when needed. And to think, he wouldn’t even be up with the team if Cam Ward was healthy.
The unsung Capitals hero was…
We hate to sound like a broken record here, but how can it not be Oleksy? He dished out four hits and blocked four shots, all in less than 12 minutes of ice time. Granted, he may have played more if he wasn’t serving that fighting major, but even that came at an appropriate time to try to get his team going.