As the night wore on at PNC Arena in Raleigh, any positive momentum the Capitals had gained in recent weeks looked, at best, precarious.
Center Nic Dowd left the game with an injury. Defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk did too, and top line center Evgeny Kuznetsov took a hard hit into the boards in the third period that left him down on the ice for a few moments. With Washington down a goal, it would’ve been fair to worry about the team’s next few weeks rather than the next few minutes.
But then just as the game seemed to be headed in the Hurricanes’ direction, the Capitals turned on the afterburners.
They dominated the third period and overtime and rallied for a 4-3 shootout win over one of the best teams in the NHL, despite playing without three regular starters for various points of the night.
Washington is now 7-0-1 since March began and has earned points in each game it has played in March. With the playoffs essentially clinched and the trade deadline just days away, it looks as if the Capitals have flipped the switch to playoff mode.
In the third period and overtime, the Capitals outshot the Hurricanes 17-4 at even strength and out-attempted them 29-8. An Alex Ovechkin tally on the power play late tied the game, and his backhand won the game in a shootout.
And without Dowd, van Riemsdyk and T.J. Oshie, who didn’t play in the game after he sustained a lower-body injury Thursday against the Blue Jackets, the Capitals played some of their best hockey of 2022.
Coach Peter Laviolette had to juggle line combinations throughout the night, as Dowd took just one shift in the third period that lasted just 19 seconds. van Riemsdyk’s last shift of the night ended with 10:28 of the third period and lasted just 15 seconds.
But through it all, the Capitals toppled a team that could very well be their playoff opponent in a fashion that, to put it mildly, was wildly impressive.
There are, and will be, concerns about the roster moving forwards. Dowd, van Riemsdyk and Oshie’s statuses are all unknown, and that’s paired with Joe Snively and Carl Hagelin’s current absences as well.
But the Capitals are doing everything they can to put a sluggish start to the new year behind them, and down a few key players against a team seemingly built to capitalize off their opponent’s mistakes, the Capitals turned in one of their best performances of the season.