RALEIGH — New Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon was introduced Friday, and one of the things he said drew him to owning an NHL team is how the margin between winning and losing is very small and that slight advantages can tip the balance in your favor.
He learned that first hand Friday night.
The Washington Capitals scored twice in the final 3:08, including the game-winner from Jay Beagle with 1.3 seconds remaining, to snatch a 4-3 win from Carolina at PNC Arena.
It was a loss that left a sour — and bloodied — taste in the Hurricanes’ collective mouth.
In the final minute with the score knotted 3-3, Carolina center Jordan Staal was high sticked by Capitals forward Evgeni Kuznetsov in the Hurricanes zone. Staal was cut on his lip, but no call was made.
“Pretty obvious, right? Thirty-two seconds to go in the game, should be on the power play,” Carolina coach Bill Peters said. “Don’t score there — power play’s good tonight — don’t score there, you start 4 on 3 in OT.”
Instead, play continued, and a draw in the Washington zone led to a Capitals rush up the ice. Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk got the puck off Alex Ovechkin’s stick, but Brock McGinn had the puck swiped away by Nicklas Backstrom. Backstrom zipped the puck to the goal mouth and Jay Beagle knocked it in for the winner with 1.3 seconds remaining.
“It was a stick in the face in front of [the ref] and he chose not to call it,” a dejected Staal, blood still dripping from his cut upper lip onto his lower lip, said of the high stick.
It looked like Carolina would complete a home-and-home sweep of the Capitals — the Hurricanes won 3-1 in Washington the night before — when Jeff Skinner ripped a shot past Washington goalie Philipp Grubauer 1:49 into the third period to give Carolina the lead.
Brett Connolly, however, tied the game with just 3:08 remaining after T.J. Oshie’s forecheck forced Noah Hanifin to throw a pass into the slot. Connolly quickly shot the puck past Cam Ward (23 saves) to make it 3-3.
“You gotta stay with him, you gotta teach, you gotta learn from it and you gotta stay with people,” Peters said of Hanifin, who was named an All-Star for the first time this week but suffered his second recent turnover that cost the team points in the standings after getting steamrolled by Tyler Johnson for a goal in Tampa Bay on Tuesday.
The shorthanded Hurricanes — playing without injured Brett Pesce and Derek Ryan and ill Elias Lindholm and Joakim Nordstrom — spent the first two periods exchanging special teams goals with the Capitals.
With Connolly in the penalty box for interference, the Hurricanes converted on their first power play opportunity of the night.
A quick passing play from Sebastian Aho to Justin Williams below the goal line and into the slot resulted in Staal’s 200th career goal just 10 seconds into the man advantage, giving a 1-0 lead 3:20 into the game.
The Capitals got it back quickly, also on the power play.
Klas Dahlbeck was called for holding while trying to break up a 2-on-1 Washington rush, sending a depleted Hurricanes penalty kill that was without four frequent penalty killers out to defend.
With just seconds remaining on the kill, a mad scrum in front of Ward eventually kicked the puck out to Jakub Vrana, who shot and hit the post. The rebound was banged in by forward Lars Eller — to give him goals in four straight games — at 7:25.
Hurricanes coach Bill Peters challenged on the grounds of goaltender interference, but the goal was upheld.
The teams exchanged goals again in the second, with Ovechkin scoring right as a Capitals power play ended to push Washington ahead just 28 seconds into the middle frame.
While the Caps were using all of their power play time to score, Carolina struck quickly again on their second chance.
Aho got his second point of the night when he one-timed a Justin Faulk pass at the point just five seconds into the man advantage to make it 2-2 at 8:50 of the second.
“PP’s been rolling, and on the flip side the PK’s gotta be better, so if you want to win games you gotta get both,” Staal said.
Skinner’s goal was assisted by Lee Stempniak, who was playing his first game of the season after missing the first 43 with two different injuries.
“It’s easy to read off a guy like that because he’s consistent, he makes good plays and you always know where he’s going to be,” Skinner said of Stempniak, his frequent linemate last season. “So it was a good game for him, hopefully something he can build off. He’s a big piece.”
The Hurricanes now have to shake off the loss before Sunday’s 3 p.m. home game against Calgary — their last before a league-mandated bye week.
“It’s never a good feeling to lose,” Skinner said. “Obviously, it’s a little bit worse feeling when you lose like that. It’s just something that we’ve got to move on from.
“It sucks right now, but it’s something you can learn from, I think,” he added. “You obviously don’t like the feeling. Yeah, we’ll move on. We’ll get focused for the next game and be ready for that challenge.”