RALEIGH — The Carolina Hurricanes game against the Washington Capitals had a bit of everything. A hat trick for a future Hall of Famer? Yep. Three special teams goals for the Canes? Uh-huh. A blown three-goal lead? You got it.
But in the end, the big question was why Sebastian Aho — lighting up the Caps with a four-point night — wasn’t one of six shooters the Hurricanes sent out in their eventual 6-5 shootout loss to the Capitals in front on 14,436 on Friday at PNC Arena.
“Well, I don’t know if you look at their numbers. They just haven’t scored. In practice, they don’t score either,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said of Aho and emerging nightly threat Andrei Svechnikov not getting the opportunity in the shootout. “We do that drill in practice every day and the same guys kind of generally are our better guys that we keep putting out there because they score in practice. So that’s really all it was.”
In order, the Hurricanes sent out Janne Kuokkanen, Jaccob Slavin, Phil Di Giuseppe, Dougie Hamilton, Justin Williams and Brock McGinn.
Hamilton was the only to score, but was matched in the fourth round by Nicklas Backstrom. Jakub Vrana, the game’s 12th shooter, finished it by beating Scott Darling for the winner.
It probably never should have gone to the shootout, with the Hurricanes blowing a three-goal lead in the second period on a five-minute flurry by the Capitals that knotted the game at 4-4. They then took the lead on captain Alexander Ovechkin’s third goal of the night — his second consecutive game with a hat trick — but Carolina tied it again with some help from Capitals goalie Braden Holtby.
Williams got Carolina’s third power play goal of the night at 13:48 of the third when Holtby shot a clearing attempt off the back of his own net, leaving the puck in front of an empty net for an easy tap-in.
It was the 10th goal in a wild 60 minutes of regulation that saw the scoring begin in the first minute.
On the game’s second shift, Aho rattled the puck around the boards and Jordan Martinook quickly collected it and executed a perfect backhanded wraparound to make it 1-0 just 47 seconds into the game.
Darling, playing for the Hurricanes for the first time since he was waived on Nov. 29, allowed a goal on the first shot he faced, a rising one-timer by Ovechkin from near the boards to give the Capitals a goal on their first shot and a tie at 3:56.
Then after a Tom Wilson embellished a high stick, leading to a Dougie Hamilton penalty, the Hurricanes got some karmic relief.
Aho and Teuvo Teravainen capitalized on a bobbled puck by Washington defenseman John Carlson, breaking out on a 2-on-0 shorthanded rush. Teravainen stumbled but pushed the puck ahead to Aho, who stayed onside and beat Holtby to push the Hurricanes ahead at 13:18 of the first.
“I think we played a pretty good PK lately,” said Aho, who seen more shorthanded ice time due to the absence of Jordan Staal. “It was easy to jump in. I’m kind of the new guy there, but there’s three other guys too and the goalie. It’s not just me.”
The Hurricanes power play then padded the lead early in the second period.
First, Aho wired a one-timer past Holtby from the right circle to extend the lead to two at 4:39. Then just over two minutes later, Svechnikov found Teravainen in the slot and he beat Holtby stick side to make it 4-1. Aho got his fourth point with the secondary assist.
But the Caps weren’t done. Ovechkin scored again, helped by an uncalled pick away from the play by Jonas Siegenthaler on Hamilton with less than three minutes left in the middle frame.
The non-call left Brind’Amour livid on the bench, and referee Brian Pochmara went to him at the start of the third to explain to the Hurricanes coach that he did not see the infraction.
“I was just frustrated because, obviously, that was the turning point in the game for me,” Brind’Amour said. “The game turned on that play, for me. And then the momentum got going and they cranked it up. And we made a couple bad turnovers.”
Then less than a minute later, Travis Boyd redirected a Carlson shot past Darling to tie the game.
The teams exchanged goals again in the third, with Ovechkin netting his third goal of the night at the midway point of the period on the power play.
Williams answered on Holtby’s gaffe, but regulation ended in a tie.
Carolina drew an overtime penalty but was unable to score 4-on-3 — Brind’Amour said he would “take the blame on that,” saying its ineffectiveness calls for it to be changed up.
That set up the shootout — where Aho didn’t get a chance to add to his big night. When asked if he expected to get an opportunity, he paused briefly and said, “I haven’t scored in the shootout out this year, so not really.”
In the end, the Hurricanes felt they never should have been in that situation anyway.
“It hurts,” Aho said. “Like you said, we had it. It’s one of the best things in the world and we were right there. Four-to-one we’re up and we lose it. Again, again, again, again we have to learn our lesson and just keep working.”
Notes: Jordan Staal missed his fourth straight game with a concussion. … Micheal Ferland missed the game, essentially his seventh missed game — he tried to return for Tuesday’s game against Toronto, but played just 5:11 before sitting out the balance of the game. … Haydn Fleury suffered a concussion Thursday in Montreal and did not play. … Teravainen finished with a goal and two assists. … Lucas Wallmark won 17 of a game-high 25 faceoffs. … Carolina went 3-for-6 on the power play, marking the first time this season the Hurricanes have scored three power play goals in a game.