Friday night offered a wild and crazy return to PNC Arena, albeit one that the Carolina Hurricanes were unable to win, losing 6-5 to the Nashville Predators in overtime. With some major news taking the fanbase by storm over the weekend, the Canes had to dig deep and find something against the Washington Capitals. In their first meeting since the Stadium Series in February, these two sides are in completely different places than they were ten months ago.
The big news coming into the night was the team's decision to waive Antti Raanta following Friday's loss. This meant the team would call up Yaniv Perets for the first time in his professional career. He would serve as the backup for this game, as Pyotr Kochetkov got the call, coming off back-to-back wins to close the road trip on Tuesday and Thursday. Washington would counter with Darcy Kuemper as they completed a back-to-back.
Despite having played on Saturday, the Capitals got off to a hot start. Alex Ovechkin, who hasn't scored in 12 games, was especially present in the opening minutes. Pyotr Kochetkov was up to the task, kicking away several chances from the Washington captain and his linemates. The Canes slowly made their way into the game after Nic Dowd was assessed a double-minor for high-sticking former Capital Dmitry Orlov.
For a second, it looked like the Hurricanes had capitalized on the power play. In the dying seconds of the first half of the double-minor, Brady Skjei wired a one-timer past Darcy Kuemper as the goalie sprawled to make the stop. While initially called a goal, the referees would come together and wave the goal off. Despite being knocked into Kuemper, it was determined that Stefan Noesen entered the crease of his own volition before Joel Edmundson bumped him into the goalie. The power play wouldn't find a goal, and after each team had another chance on the power play, the game went into the intermission scoreless.
The start of the second period was a masterclass in keeping your opponents hemmed in their defensive zone. The Canes kept the Capitals on their heels for most of the first six minutes. Eventually, they broke through. Aided by an excellent forecheck from Stefan Noesen, Seth Jarvis found Sebastian Aho in a soft spot in the slot to wire a one-timer under the pads of Darcy Kuemper. Washington responded less than four minutes later as Martin Fehervary walked down Main Street to bury a shot under the glove of Pyotr Kochtekov to even it up. After some help from the iron on a chance by Anthony Mantha, the two sides made it to the second break in the same spot they were in before the period.
The Hurricanes had all the chances in the world to win the game in regulation. They dominated the third period from horn to horn without finding the go-ahead tally. The posts weren't their friend. Sebastian Aho redirected a chance on the power play off the short-side post. Brett Pesce hit the crossbar as Stefan Noesen provided a solid net front. Pyotr Kochetkov did his part to keep things tied as the two sides went to overtime. Washington played the world's most boring game of Keep Away for almost five minutes, though Brady Skjei did need to make the play of the night to take a puck off the goal line. In the shootout, Evgeny Kuznetsov would be the only shooter to find the back of the net, allowing the Capitals to earn the second point in a 2-1 decision.
When the Canes shine in one area, the other areas seem to struggle. On Friday night, it was bad goaltending that kept them from a win despite their offense coming alive. Against the Capitals, it was the exact opposite. Pyotr Kochetkov went long stretches without facing a shot but was stout when called upon. His best save of the night came in the first period on a short-handed breakaway by Tom Wilson. He made the saves he needed to make, and a defensive breakdown allowed a Capitals defenseman to walk down and score on a 50/50 chance. This was a very important start for Kochetkov, especially with everything that happened on Saturday. He gave his team a chance to win.
Not scoring on one of their 13 shots in the third period or any of their five power plays is what truly sank the ship. Technically, they scored once on the power play. It just didn't count because of goalie interference. Like everything else for the Canes, the power play fluctuates from one extreme to the other frequently. They only had one shot on their first four chances before getting two on their final power play of the game. It has been good of late, but it failed to provide any momentum in this game. A lot of that can be attributed to Darcy Kuemper playing well, too.
The Hurricanes will put their four-game point streak on the line on Tuesday night when the Vegas Golden Knights come to town for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup. The start to their title defense has been a very good one. To close the week, the Canes will be in Pittsburgh on Thursday and will host the Islanders on Saturday before the league takes a pause for Christmas.