Capitals smother Hurricanes, take series lead

Washington's 6-0 win gives the defending champions a 3-2 series lead and puts Carolina on the brink of elimination

Washington's Tom Wilson celebrates his third-period goal with Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov during the Capitals' 6-0 win in Game 6 of their first-round playoff series with the Hurricanes at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. The Capitals leads the series 3-2. (Nick Wass / AP Photo)

WASHINGTON, D.C. —The Hurricanes power play had opportunities Saturday night to get Carolina back into Game 5 of the team’s first-round playoff series.

The Washington Capitals had everything else.

Carolina’s power play went 0-for-5 while Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom scored twice and added two assists, leading the Capitals to a dominating 6-0 win and a 3-2 series lead in front of 18,506 Saturday at Capital One Arena.

“A little bit too much panic, not enough execution,” Hurricanes center Jordan Staal said of the power play — but also succinctly summarized the team’s entire effort — after the loss, which put Carolina on the brink of elimination with Game 6 set for Monday in Raleigh.

Coach Rod Brind’Amour wasn’t as kind in his assessment.

“We were really bad from start to finish,” he said. “It’s kind of tough to pick out a guy I thought had a good game. This time of year, you need everybody on board. For whatever reason, we were all just a step behind. The score’s indicative of the game.”

The Hurricanes were down three top-nine forwards — Micheal Ferland, Jordan Martinook and Andrei Svechnikov — due to injuries in the series, but it wasn’t their replacements that were at fault in Saturday’s loss.

Carolina’s power play sputtered, getting three straight power play opportunities when the team was trailing by just one but never mustered much of an attack.

After Carolina’s third of the second period failed to convert, a turnover by Warren Foegele — who was Public Enemy No. 1 in D.C. after his hit in Game 4 injured Washington’s T.J. Oshie and knocked him out for at least the rest of this series — led to a 2-on-1 rush.

Alexander Ovechkin found Backstrom — who had already opened the scoring for the third straight game at Capital One Arena with a first-period goal —to make it 2-0 at 14:21 of the middle frame.

“That was just kind of the beginning of it,” Brind’Amour said. “It was a 1-0 game, to get three power plays in a row and don’t even execute anything. So that, to me, is where the tipping point kind of went. And then they just took it from there.”

Less than two minutes after Backstrom scored his second, the defending Stanley Cup champions added a third.

Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton was beaten to a puck behind the Carolina net by Ovechkin, and he got his second assist of the night with a pass to Brett Connolly that was buried past Petr Mrazek (22 saves) to extend the lead to three.

“Their best players were their best players. Ours were not,” Brind’Amour said.

From there, the rout was on.

The Capitals scored three times in the final frame. First, the Capitals’ Tom Wilson swiped in a rebound just 64 seconds into the third period, giving Washington three man-advantage tallies on the night. Nic Dowd then added a penalty shot goal, and, of course, Ovechkin rifled a power play one-timer in to cap off an as-bad-as-it-gets night for the Hurricanes.

Braden Holtby wasn’t really challenged, registering a 30-save shutout that looked similar to Mrazek’s Game 3 shutout in the ease in which it was earned.

The series now shifts back to Raleigh, where the Hurricanes have won both games and will need a win in Monday’s Game 6 to keep their season alive.

“The good news is we still have another game to play,” Brind’Amour said. “So, pick the pieces up, try to get better and throw everything we can at them next game.”

Notes: Aleksi Saarela made his NHL debut in the game, playing 9:10 and finishing with one hit. … Sebastian Aho had a game-high seven shots on goal. … Foegele, who had five points in the first four games of the series, was held without a shot.