RALEIGH – The Capitals are headed to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Trailing the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1, Washington scored twice in the third period to rally for the 3-2 win on Thursday and punch their ticket to the postseason. With the win, the Caps also extended their lead in the Metropolitan Division to five points.
Here are four reasons Washington won.
Connolly’s quick response
Nino Niederreiter took advantage of a defensive breakdown by Washington and scored the game’s first goal early in the first period. Before the Hurricanes could really revel in having the lead, Brett Connolly had the game knotted up at 1.
Brooks Orpik cleared a puck out of the defensive zone that went up and over the defense, where Connolly was able to pounce on it to launch a 2-on-1. He looked like he was looking for the pass the whole way, but when Trevor van Riemsdyk slid too early to cut off the pass, Connolly curled the puck around him and fired a beauty of a shot past Curtis McElhinney.
It took just 42 seconds after Niederreiter’s goal for Connolly to tie the game.
The Caps entered the third period down 2-1, but Jakub Vrana needed just 95 seconds to tie the game thanks to some great end-to-end passing. Christian Djoos held the puck behind the net as Washington set up the breakout. He passed it up to Evgeny Kuznetsov on the right just in front of the blue line. Near center ice, Kuznetsov cut to the center and passed it to the left to Vrana, who had a step on the defense. He was behind the defense before they knew they were in trouble and cut to the center. McElhinney shifted to stay with the puck and Vrana tucked it through the open 5-hole.
Nick Jensen collected the puck at the wall near the blue line and flung what looked like a harmless looking shot toward the net. Just before it got to McElhinney, however, Nic Dowd stretched out the stick and managed to get a piece of it deflecting the puck between the netminder’s pads and into the net. The goal gave the Caps their first lead of the game and it would stick.
Holtby was not tested much in the first two periods as Carolina managed only 16 shots. He came up huge in the third period, however, with a number of key saves as the Hurricanes fought furiously to tie the game. Holtby finished with 24 saves on 26 shots, 10 of which came in the final frame.
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