RALEIGH, N.C. -- After losing three straight home games this week, the Capitals hoped Saturday's Stadium Series contest against the Hurricanes -- and everything that came with the outdoor spectacle -- would provide a breath of fresh air and help the team get out of their current skid.
Washington didn't get its wish.
In front of a sold-out crowd at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, the Hurricanes had the edge over the Capitals from the start and never looked back, earning a 4-1 victory over Washington in a contest that was never particularly close; the Capitals were significantly outshot and gave up double the number of penalties they received.
The Carolina faithful didn't have to wait very long to have something to cheer for. Just two minutes and 11 seconds into the game, Jesperi Kotkaniemi put the home side on top after a deflected shot went off his skate past Capitals goaltender Darcy Kuemper into the back of the net.
After allowing an early goal, the Capitals seemed to get more comfortable throughout the period. However, the group's power play struggles continued in the frame, as Washington went 0-for-2 on man-advantage situations and went into the first intermission down by one.
Then, for a second straight game, a rough second-period effort left the Capitals in a hole too large to climb out of.
The Hurricanes extended their lead to two with 14:13 remaining in the second period after center Paul Stastny's rebound shot got by Kuemper. The Capitals' goaltender initially saved Jalen Chatfield's wrist shot, but the puck bounced straight up in front of the crease and Kuemper was unable to locate it at first. Stastny found himself in the right place to double Carolina's lead.
Almost exactly three minutes later, the Hurricanes' lead grew to three on the power play after Martin Necas' rocket from the left circle beat Kuemper near post. Carolina extended the gap to four shortly after when Necas found Teuvo Teravainen on a 2-on-1 breakaway.
Frustration from the visitor's side was evident later on in the period when Anthony Mantha took exception to a hit near the boards from Jordan Martinook. The two ended up dropping the gloves and although Mantha was the victor of the scrap, the Capitals were unable to use that jolt of energy.
The Capitals did give their fans that made the trip to Raleigh at least one thing to cheer about, as Tom Wilson scored midway through the third period on an impressive tough-angled shot.
Wilson returned to the ice on Saturday for the first time since injuring his ankle on Jan. 24. It's also worth noting that Marcus Johansson, who suffered an undisclosed injury in Thursday's game against Florida, was able to play on Saturday as well.
After winning three of four matchups against Carolina in 2021-22, the Capitals will finish the 2022-23 campaign with a winless 0-3 record against the Metro Division foe.
With the loss, the Capitals remain at 62 points and are currently on the outside looking in of the playoff picture. Despite a 6-2 loss to the NHL-best Boston Bruins on Saturday, the New York Islanders (63 points) past the Capitals in the standings after beating Pittsburgh on Friday evening. Saturday is the first time the Capitals have been outside of a playoff spot since Dec. 22.
The Capitals' schedule doesn't get much easier, either. Washington returns home for three straight games this week against a trio of teams -- Detroit, Anaheim and New York (Rangers) -- that are all firmly in the playoff race. How the next three games go for Washington could play a large factor in determining their postseason fate.