Penalties have been the Hurricanes’ Achilles’ heel all season, an issue that has been covered up by the team’s league-best penalty kill.
No one needed to fire an arrow into the Hurricanes on Thursday night — they shot themselves in the foot plenty.
Carolina took three first period penalties and six overall, giving up two power play goals in a 4-0 loss in Washington that ended its seven-game point streak.
“Lots of penalties, and that’s definitely a trend I don’t like. I haven’t liked it at all,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “Tonight, that’s the game. Right in the first period, you’re in the box first six minutes, a 5-on-3. I mean, you can’t even get going.”
Two of the first period penalties came late, giving the Capitals a 5-on-3 power play.
With Ethan Bear already in the box, Brady Skjei joined his fellow Hurricanes defenseman when he was called for high-sticking Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov, on the two-man advantage, beat Frederik Andersen (28 saves) with a shot through traffic for a 1-0 lead at 18:33 of the first.
“Between periods, the first period, it was definitely mentioned in the locker room that we’ve got to cut back on the penalties,” said Skjei, who was called for two penalties Thursday and has six minors in the past six games. “It just kind of kills the flow of the game. … We definitely need to do a better job of staying out of the box.”
The second period wasn’t much better. Martin Fehervary was left alone in the slot and scored his fourth goal of the season at 8:30, and then Alexander Ovechkin — with Derek Stepan in the box — scored on a power play one-timer with just under five minutes left in the middle frame to extend the lead to 3-0.
“They’re an elite power play, so eventually they’re going to score,” Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho said.
Carolina’s offense never got in a rhythm, going 0-for-3 on the power play and doing little at even strength outside of Martin Necas, whose goal drought was extended to 17 games despite being the only noticeable forward for the first 40 minutes.
“it’s tough to get kill that many penalties, especially early on,” Aho said. “Some guys don’t get in a rhythm and some guys play too much. So we’ve got to be sharper.”
By the time Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov scored with under a minute left in the game, the Hurricanes looked like they were already prepared to move on to Friday night’s game against the visiting Penguins.
“We’ve got to move past this game quickly,” Skjei said. “We have a quick turnaround. We’ve got Pittsburgh tomorrow night.”
Notes: Stepan returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch the past three games. Rookie Seth Jarvis was scratched. … Jaccob Slavin played 22:39 but didn’t play the final 6:18. When asked, Brind’Amour said, “He’s fine.” … Capitals goalie Vitek Vanecek, making his first career start against the Hurricanes, made 36 saves for his fifth career shutout and third on the season.