The Canes Fall 7-6 in a Shootout in One of the Most Bizarre Games of the Season

Aho and Milano trade hat tricks in a wild back-and-forth game as the Canes manage to take a point despite one of their worst defensive performances of the year.
Carolina Hurricanes v Washington Capitals
Carolina Hurricanes v Washington Capitals / Scott Taetsch/GettyImages

Having extended their win streak to five games on Thursday night against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Hurricanes hit the road to complete the back-to-back against the Washington Capitals. Fighting for their playoff lives, the Capitals have managed to keep their season alive as Alex Ovechkin has placed himself within 50 goals of Wayne Gretzky's record. With two Southeast Division rivals going at it in March, madness was certain to ensure.

It was Pyotr Kochetkov's turn in the rotation after Frederik Andersen's magnificent performance against the Flyers. Teuvo Teravainen returned to the lineup after missing four games with an upper-body concern. The Capitals countered with Darcy Kuemper in the net. After playing his 1,000th game last week, TJ Oshie missed his second straight with an injury, while Tom Wilson missed after being handed a six-game suspension before the game.

We should've known from the drop of the puck that this game was going to be insane. The first goal of the night was a beauty, and it only got crazier from there. After the Canes failed to score on a power play, Jake Guentzel made a beautiful pass from below the goal line to Sebastian Aho in the slot, who buried it past a confused Darcy Kuemper.

Washington would get it back on their power play later in the period. Sonny Milano popped a loose puck past Pyotr Kochetkov as he looked everywhere for it. In the final minute of the period, Jaccob Slavin would send the Canes into the locker room happy. Another great pass, this time from Jesperi Kotkaniemi, set up a pinching Slavin to slap one home to give the Canes a 2-1 lead.

On this episode of "What is Goalie Interference?" the Hurricanes thought they'd scored the go-ahead goal before the halfway point in the second period after Brent Burns ripped one past Darcy Kuemper. Washington challenged the play for goalie interference, looking to prove that Evgeny Kuznetsov prevented Kuemper from playing his position. It looked like Kuemper initiated contact with Kuznetsov as John Carlson hooked him, but because Kuznetsov was in the paint, his crime was more egregious, wiping the goal off the board.

The Hurricanes' lead held until late in the second period. Power-play merchant Alex Ovechkin scored at the side of the net as he outmuscled Teuvo Teravainen to even things up. Less than a minute later, Sonny Milano juggled the puck to himself to bunt it past Pyotr Kochetkov to give the Capitals their first lead. The Canes thought they'd tied the game 14 seconds later as Jordan Martinook buried a breakaway, but another successful challenge deemed Andrei Svechnikov was offside.

Not being deterred by two overturned goals, the Hurricanes eventually found their answer. Jake Guentzel once again connected with Sebastian Aho on a beautiful cross-seam pass to tie it up at three. A lot of penalties took place in the final two minutes, but during a brief 4-on-4 in the final seconds, Brady Skjei got one to go in off Darcy Kuemper's glove to put the Canes back out front going into the intermission.

The Capitals came out and took control of the third period. After over three minutes of a successful kill to Sebastian Aho's double-minor, Brady Skjei took a holding penalty, allowing John Carlson to tie it 4-4. Then, Sonny Milano completed his first hat trick on a very odd goal that bounced into the net off Martin Necas. The Hurricanes responded with their first power-play goal of the night, as Seth Jarvis scored from the bumper position to extend his goal streak to six games.

Connor McMichael put the Capitals back out in front by putting home a rebound from within the paint, but the Hurricanes got it back with Pyotr Kochetkov on the bench. Martin Necas' shot hit Sebastian Aho's shin pad and deflected into the net, giving him his 30th goal of the season as the Canes ensured they'd finish with at least a point. Neither team scored in overtime despite some excellent chances, and Dylan Strome was the only player to score in the five-round shootout, giving Washington the second point in a 7-6 victory.

Where do you even start with a game as insane as this? The Canes' penalty kill wasn't very good. Outside of a strong three-minute stretch to begin the third period, they probably cost the Canes a win. Pyotr Kochetkov wasn't good, and while I wouldn't put every goal on him, this was a rare glimpse of the version of him we haven't seen in a while. Neither team played well with the lead. It was clear that Washington was desperate, and you could tell they cared. The reactions of Aho and Seth Jarvis to their goals in the third period proved this wasn't just a throwaway game for them, either.

The turning point in this game very well might've been the goalie interference call. The second Washington opted to challenge, I knew this goal wasn't going to count, but not because I thought Evgeny Kuznetsov was guilty of anything. This is the exact type of call that would go against the Hurricanes 100 times out of 100. I'm not saying this to imply that Toronto's situation room hates the Canes. I'm simply calling into question whether the result would've been the same if the roles were reversed. I feel like we've seen plenty of instances when a Hurricanes goalie was interfered with, yet the goal stood.

There's no reason to belabor the bad points from this game. The Canes managed to get a point because the top line once again stepped up and delivered. Sebastian Aho scored three times. Jake Guentzel recorded three assists, giving him nine assists and 11 points in seven games as a Hurricane. Seth Jarvis scored his seventh goal in six games in his pursuit of joining Aho as a 30-goal scorer. Jaccob Slavin was phenomenal on both ends of the ice. Martin Necas had two assists. The offense wasn't the issue because six goals would usually be more than enough.

The Hurricanes will be back at PNC Arena to play their fourth game in six nights on Sunday. They'll host the Toronto Maple Leafs for the first time this season, looking to build off their huge win in Toronto last Saturday. After that, there will only be ten games left in the regular season. While the postseason is nearly guaranteed at this point, there is still plenty for the Canes to play for down the stretch.