WASHINGTON, D.C. — Brock McGinn, welcome to Hurricanes lore.
At 11:05 of double overtime in Wednesday’s Game 7, the drafted and developed 25-year-old redirected a Justin Williams pass past Braden Holtby, ending the Washington Capitals defense of their Stanley Cup title and sending Carolina to a second-round matchup with the New York Islanders.
“Willy kind of threw it there and I just — stick on the ice going there and fortunately it was able to go off my stick and in the net,” McGinn said.
And it was Williams, Mr. Game 7, who created the play. On an offensive zone faceoff, Williams purposefully pushed the puck forward. The Capitals, however, gained possession and rattled the puck around the boards. Jaccob Slavin collected it at the left point and dumped into the far corner, where Williams retrieved it and threw it perpendicularly toward the net.
McGinn beat Capitals winger Tom Wilson to the goal mouth and redirected the shot in for a 4-3 win — both in the game and the series.
It capped a dominant 31:05 of overtime for the Hurricanes, who outshot the Capitals 18-6 in the two extra periods.
It nearly didn’t get to overtime, but McGinn proved the savior in the third period as well.
The Hurricanes had erased a two-goal deficit to tie the game, but the Capitals nearly scored when a shot trickled through Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek (34 saves). With Washington center Nicklas Backstrom at the far post and the puck perilously in the blue paint, McGinn dove and swept it from the crease to keep the game even.
“It’s just a reaction there,” McGinn said. “I saw it kind of squeak through Petr a bit. I don’t know if it had enough steam to cross the line, but I don’t think I was taking that chance. It was big for our team and we’ve just got to continue putting our best foot forward going on.”
Like the Hurricanes never would have reached overtime without that McGinn play, Carolina also wouldn’t have been in a tied Game 7 if it hadn’t gotten a spark courtesy of its penalty kill.
The Capitals scored twice in the first 6:23 of the game and were still up 2-0 nearly nine minutes into the second period when the Hurricanes went down a man when Jordan Martinook was called for tripping.
Sebastian Aho led a shorthanded rush up the ice, and, with Teuvo Teravainen driving toward the net, flipped the puck in on Braden Holtby (38 saves). Holtby misplayed the fluttering shot and it went right back to Aho, who slid in the rebound for a shorthanded goal to cut the lead in half at 9:51 of the middle frame.
But the Capitals quickly answered.
Carolina turned the puck over in the Washington end and the Capitals rushed up ice 3-on-1. Carl Hagelin got the puck to Evgeny Kuznetsov in the middle of the ice, and his shot beat Mrazek to make it 3-1 at 13:22 of the second.
“Getting a shortie to kind of get us in the game, and they come back to score,” Brind’Amour said. “There was no letdown. It’s nice to know everyone contributed and your big guys stepped up when they had to.”
It was Aho and Teravainen who stepped up again.
Aho won a battle in the corner, feeding the puck to McGinn. McGinn moved it to Brett Pesce at the point, and his point shot was deflected and skittered into the slot. Aho then lifted Kuznetsov’s stick to allow the puck through. It went right to Teravainen, who rifled a shot past Holtby to make it 3-2 Capitals heading into the third period.
Then it was Jordan Staal’s turn to shine.
Slavin — who had three assists on the night — fired a beautiful cross-ice feed to Staal through the neutral zone. The burly center, who was a thorn in the Capitals’ collective side all series, came up the right wing in stride and ripped a shot past Holtby 2:56 into the third period — a goal that was eerily reminiscent of the one brother Eric Staal scored with the Hurricanes on Martin Brodeur in Game 7 of their 2009 series with the Devils.
That set up overtime, where the Hurricanes dominated.
“It looked like we were going, and we were making plays and we had a lot of chances,” Brind’Amour said. “I thought for a minute — Holtby was playing great — it was one of those where you get all the action and they get down and put one in.”
Things were further complicated when Saku Maenalanen was called for delay of game 2:02 into the second overtime for flipping the puck over the side boards — a call that wasn’t made in the first OT against Washington’s Brett Connolly.
But Carolina’s penalty kill finally found a way to neutralize Washington’s lethal power play.
“Obviously, they’ve got a tremendous power play,” Brind’Amour said. “We knew coming in that that was going to be the deal, and obviously in the games they won here, they were dominant. We had to figure a way to shut it down.”
They did, and seven minutes later it was over, with McGinn jumping into the arms of Pesce and Williams as a converging swarm of Hurricanes poured off the bench to celebrate.
“I don’t know what else to say about this group,” Brind’Amour said. “I’ve been saying it all year, they just don’t quit. … And we’ve got great leadership. In overtime, you saw it come through.
“Just really proud of this group. This is a special group, and I’m just glad to be a part of it.”
Notes: The Hurricanes will open their Round 2 series in Brooklyn against the Islanders on Friday at 7 p.m. Game 2 will be Sunday at 3 p.m., also at Barclays Center. Games 3 and 4 will shift back to Raleigh — Game 3 will be next Wednesday at 7 p.m., followed by Game 4 next Friday, also at 7 p.m. … Slavin played a game-high 38:27. … Williams improved to 8-1 in Game 7s and now has seven goals and eight assists in those games.