Guentzel's Three Points and Aho's Late Winner Help the Canes Overcome a 2-0 Deficit

The Canes outshot the Capitals 45-16 and needed some magic on the power play to earn a big bounce-back victory over the Capitals on Friday night.
Apr 5, 2024; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho (20) celebrates
Apr 5, 2024; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho (20) celebrates / James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday night was a tough pill to swallow for the Carolina Hurricanes after being outworked early by the Boston Bruins. Allowing three goals in the first 11 minutes, the Canes couldn't find their way back in a rough 4-1 loss. With no time to let that loss linger, they welcomed the Washington Capitals to complete the final back-to-back of the regular season.

Pyotr Kochetkov and Darcy Kuemper took the net in a rematch of the barnburner from a few weeks ago in D.C. Neither goalie was particularly sharp, and Kuemper was pulled after 40 minutes in what became a 7-6 shootout win for the Capitals. Andrei Svechnikov missed the game for the Hurricanes with an illness, allowing Jesperi Kotkaniemi to draw back into the lineup after being a healthy scratch against Boston.

The start against Boston on Thursday night doomed the Hurricanes. Their start on Friday night wasn't much better. To their credit, they waited a full minute longer before allowing the first goal. Alex Ovechkin won a battle in front of the net against Jaccob Slavin to be in a great position to put home a rebound to open the scoring 3:31 in.

The rest of the period was fine for Carolina, but Ovechkin would get another one after an avoidable mental lapse. An intentional offside allowed Washington to get an offensive-zone draw. Ovechkin parked himself in front of the net to redirect a shot with less than 45 seconds left to double the lead before the break.

Just like against the Bruins, the second period was all Carolina, but nothing was going into the net. Darcy Kuemper was standing on his head. His best sequence came during a power play for the Hurricanes midway through the period. He got a little help from his defense to prevent the shutout from being broken. Right after that kill for Washington, Tom Wilson sprung himself on a breakaway. Pyotr Kochetkov did his part, denying Wilson and the follow-up chance from Connor McMichael to keep it a two-goal game.

These two stops helped the offense finally break through. Jaccob Slavin's stretch pass hit a stick and popped into the air. Jake Guentzel waited for it to cross the blue line before jumping in and popping home the bouncing puck to get the Canes on the board with 5:30 left in the frame. Another successful kill would get the Canes into the locker room down by just one with plenty of momentum.

The penalty kill would once again spark the Hurricanes, coming through in the third period. A penalty just before the midway point almost ended in disaster, as Alex Ovechkin's wrister hit the crossbar just seconds in to provide a tiny scare. The penalty would eventually be negated by Sonny Milano in the final seconds, giving the Canes a chance to find the tying goal with the man advantage. The second unit started the power play, and they'd cash in. Martin Necas unleashed a one-timer from Ovechkin's spot that hit the right post and beat Darcy Kuemper to draw back even.

With the game tied, the Canes did everything they could to get Alex Ovechkin the hat trick. Brent Burns turned the puck over in the defensive zone, giving Ovechkin plenty of room with little resistance. Pyotr Kochetkov kicked out his pad and got a little help as Dylan Strome lost an edge on the rebound chance. Fortunately, the Canes avoided a disaster for a second time for the moment.

The Hurricanes earned a prime opportunity to take their first lead of the night after Sebastian Aho drew a hooking penalty from Rasmus Sandin with 2:19 left. Teuvo Teravainen deserves some credit for getting the puck into the zone and pushing it to Jake Guentzel, who fed Brent Burns. His shot was knocked down by Darcy Kuemper, but Aho was there to slide the rebound home with Kuemper out of position to put the Canes ahead with just under two minutes left. With the fans still buzzing after the go-ahead goal, Guentzel put it away for good with his second of the night, scoring into the empty net to complete the 4-2 comeback win.

We were dangerously close to having to talk about how this long break was the worst thing to happen to the Hurricanes' season. I'm not sure what has been in the water for the first periods during this back-to-back, but they were both brutal to witness. They've been outscored 5-0 in the first period over the last two games. Miraculously, they looked much better in the final 40 minutes, and they were rewarded with this comeback win after coming up short against Boston.

The magical run of Jake Guentzel since becoming a Hurricanes continued with three points, including two of the four goals. Guentzel now has 20 points in 13 games, including eight points in his last four. His assist was also a big one, helping to set up the game-winner on the power play. With his game-winner, Sebastian Aho set a new franchise record, recording his tenth game-winning goal of the season.

It's also worth talking about Pyotr Kochetkov's night. It's hard to pin either of Alex Ovechkin's goals on him, especially the disgusting tip late in the first period. Kochetkov didn't face a high volume of shots in the final 40 minutes, but they were certainly high-danger ones. He turned the game around with his breakaway save on Tom Wilson before Jake Guentzel eventually got the Canes on the board. This comeback doesn't happen without his timeliness.

The final home game of the regular season will happen on Sunday night, as the Hurricanes face the Columbus Blue Jackets. While the home slate will be over, the Canes will still have four road games to finish the season, getting started in Beantown on Tuesday night in a rubber match against the Boston Bruins.