Hurricanes overcome distractions, Capitals at Carter-Finley Stadium

Hurricanes center Paul Stastny scores on Capitals goalie Darcy Kuemper in the second period of Carolina's 4-1 win in the Stadium Series game Saturday night at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh (Stan Gilliland / For the North State Journal)

RALEIGH — The Carolina Hurricanes had plenty of distractions as they prepared to host the Washington Capitals in an outdoor game at Carter-Finley Stadium. From choosing golf-themed arrival outfits ala Payne Stewart to events with family members all week long, the NHL Stadium Series contest presented plenty of opportunities for a team to lose focus.

“There’s tons of distractions,” said goaltender Frederik Andersen. “There’s all kinds of new things.”

Or, as coach Rod Brind’Amour said beforehand, the atmosphere was “a gong show.”

The Hurricanes were able to set aside the distractions and replace the gong show with a goal siren, scoring the game’s first four goals on their way to a 4-1 blowout win.

In a game between division rivals that was spirited and physical from the outset, the Hurricanes drew first blood when Jesperi Kotkaniemi scored with help from Teuvo Teravainen and Martin Necas at the 2:11 mark of the first period.

“Obviously, in a game like this, you want to get out ahead,” said Brind’Amour. “Give us a little cushion.”

The early score had the opposite effect on the visitors, who came in having lost their last three.

“It’s been that way for the last few games,” said Washington coach Peter Laviolette. “Teams have gotten that first goal in the first period, and you’re chasing the game and the offense has been a little bit tougher to come by.”

The Capitals withstood several Carolina power plays to finish the first period down one, and killed another power play in the opening minute of the second period. Then things took a turn in favor of the home team.

“The second period is where we unraveled a little bit,” said Laviolette.

Carolina broke the game open with three goals in the middle 20 minutes. Paul Stastny scored at 5:47 on feeds from Jalen Chatfield and Jordan Martinook. Three minutes and one second later, Necas scored his 22nd goal of the year on passes from Brent Burns and Kotkanimi. Necas then assisted for his third point of the night on a power play score by Teravainen at the 11:17 mark.

“I just really felt the energy from the fans, and you just don’t feel tired at all out there,” said Necas, who also had a near goal on a shot where he skated backward and fired the puck between his legs, thrilling the sellout crowd of 56,961.

The Canes credited the performance with an ability to focus on the task at hand as game time approached.

“I feel like once we got here then it was kind of normal routine,” said Necas. “We got here like three hours before the game. So we kind of had time to refocus and just be ready to be dialed in. Once we start stepping on the ice or, you know, waiting for the national anthem, all of us have gotten goosebumps and we are so, so pumped up to go and play.”

Andersen carried a shutout into the waning minutes and also added an assist, but he also credited his pregame routine.

“My approach is try to keep as many things the same that I could,” he said. “Obviously, there’s a lot of things that are out of your control, but just stay in the moment and really just enjoy it too. It’s not every, every time you get to do this, and obviously some of those memories you’re gonna have for a long time.”

For the Carolina players and coaches, the memories will come with a W in the standings.