Post-game analysis of the Capitals’ 4-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes Thursday night at RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C.:
How it happened: The Capitals fell behind 3-1 on third-period goals by Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner and mounted a late comeback attempt on Alex Ovechkin’s 21st goal of the season, but Staal finished off the Caps with an empty net goal from 180 feet to hand the Caps their first loss of any kind since Dec. 10.
What it means: The Caps’ loss ended their winning streak at nine. It was their longest win streak since rattling off nine in a row in 2010-11. They remain atop the Eastern Conference with 58 points.
Back in action: After sitting out the third period of Wednesday night’s 5-2 win over the Sabres with an undisclosed injury, Nicklas Backstrom returned to the top line and scored a sweet goal off a sneaky snap shot midway through the second period. Backstrom turned Carolina defenseman Justin Faulk inside out with a hard fake to the outside, allowing him the time and space to rip a wrist shot past goalie Eddie Lack.
Creeping toward 500: Ovechkin’s third period goal with 5:44 remaining in regulation lit a late fire under the Caps, but they could not get the equalizer with Philipp Grubauer pulled for an extra attacker. Ovechkin now has four goals in his last three games and is four goals away from netting the 500th goal of his illustrious career.
Feeling Grubi: Philipp Grubauer stopped 33 of 36 shots and made a valiant but futile effort to swipe Eric Staal’s shot off the goal line 51 seconds into the third period. His lost dropped his record to 4-3-1.
Inside the box score: With Jay Beagle (upper body) out of the lineup for the first time this season, Zach Sill took his place on a checking line with Jason Chimera and Tom Wilson. Sill had two shots, two hits and won 4 of 8 faceoffs and was a minus-1 in 10:33 of ice time, including 1:28 on the penalty kill. Michael Latta also saw time on the third unit and finished with one shot and even in 11:37 of action. Andre Burakovsky was a plus-2 with two shots in 12:18 of work.
Rough night: Tom Wilson recorded a team-high six hits but took a pair of penalties and finished a minus-2 in 11:45 of work. Defenseman Dmitry Orlov was a team-worst minus-3 in 21:30 of ice time.
Look ahead: The Capitals have not lost back-to-back games all season and will try to extend that streak Saturday night when they make their first visit of the season to Columbus. The Caps topped the Blue Jackets 2-1 on Oct. 30 at Verizon Center, when Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie scored goals.