The Carolina Hurricanes first playoff game in nearly a decade didn’t look like it would live up to expectations after the Capitals scored three first-period goals.
Then it did.
The upstart “Bunch of Jerks” pulled within one before allowing an empty-net goal and falling 4-2 to the defending Stanley Cup champions in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.
Here’s what we learned:
Don’t take penalties
The Capitals have two sure-fire Hall of Famers in Nicklas Backstrom and captain Alex Ovechkin. They combined for three of Washington’s four goals, including one for each on the power play.
The Hurricanes need to limit their trips to the penalty box — it’s a recipe for disaster.
From Russia, with love
The biggest storyline from Game 1 — for either team — was Andrei Svechnikov’s third period. The 19-year-old scored twice, powering past John Carlson on one and firing in an Ovie-like one-timer on the other.
As encouraging, Svechnikov didn’t shrink from the moment — not the enemy atmosphere, not his mother country’s iconic player, not a three-goal deficit. And he did it with some snarl.
For anyone who’s watched Svechnikov all year, it’s not surprising. But this was a coming-out party to the NHL universe — Svechnikov is a man in a boy’s body — yes, he’s going to get bigger, stronger, faster — and he’s dangerous every time he climbs over the boards.
Mrazek’s your No. 1
It wasn’t a great opening period for Petr Mrazek, particularly the first goal when he was beaten by a distant Backstrom wrister. But the team settled in the second period, and by the time the third rolled around, Mrazek was back in the groove.
A couple of breakaway saves kept the lead at three, opening the door for Svechnikov and the Hurricanes’ rally.
Mrazek has a swagger, and he regained it in the final 20 minutes.
More from the top
Carolina got scoring from the bottom of their lineup. Svechnikov’s two goals, Lucas Wallmark’s two assists on them and a sneaky good game from Greg McKegg (in just 7:50 of TOI) are all positives.
But the Hurricanes will need Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, Justin Williams, Nino Niederreiter to show up on the score sheet to win this series.
Part of that is having success on the power play — it was underwhelming Thursday, but not as bad as the usually good penalty kill — but those guys also need to score at even strength.
Punish the D
Dump-and-chase is a curse word in today’s NHL, but many skilled players would rather throw the puck to an open area and skate without it to go retrieve it.
That’s great, but if you’re going to beat the Caps you probably need to make their thin D pay every time they go back to get the puck. That means some dumping followed by some big hits from the likes of Micheal Ferland, Jordan Martinook, Jordan Staal and Brock McGinn.
None of those guys are going to dangle through a crowd — though Ferland shows flashes from time to time — but all of them can make life miserable for defensemen retrieving pucks.
Washington is already without Michal Kempny, and any more aches and pains on the blue line could really hinder the Capitals’ transition game.
It also might take Tom Wilson off his game and get him to doing something reactive.
And I think everyone is itching to see Ferland v. Wilson, right?