Photo: Greg Forweck/Getty Images
The Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes meet in Raleigh again on Friday night, six days after the Hurricanes beat the Capitals by a score of 6-4 there. The Hurricanes also won the Capitals’ home opener by a score of 3-2 in overtime despite trailing 2-0 in the third period. Action from PNC Arena can be seen on NBC Sports Washington+ locally and on NHL Network nationally beginning at 7:30 PM ET.
The Capitals make a pit stop in Raleigh during a stretch where they play six out of nine and 11 of 16 at Capital One Arena. While they still boast the league’s best road record at 16-5-1, a three-win cushion over the St. Louis Blues, Arizona Coyotes, and Colorado Avalanche for the best in the NHL this season, they have lost two straight road games in regulation by a combined score of 13-6 and three of their last four. They have allowed at least three goals in every road game during that stretch.
The Capitals begin the second half of the regular season on top of the NHL standings with 59 points heading into Thursday. They enter the game on the heels of back-to-back regulation setbacks for the first time this season after falling to the New York Islanders by a score of 4-3 on Tuesday afternoon. Since a six-game winning steak came to an end with a 5-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on December 9, the Capitals are 5-5-0. They have allowed 10 goals in their past two games and 18 in their past four. Before that, the Capitals were eighth in the NHL with an average of 2.76 goals-against per game. Now, they rank 11th with an average of 2.93 per game.
Defenseman John Carlson’s 50 points this season are the 10th-most in the NHL while his 37 assists are tied with Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau for the fourth-most. Since recording three goals and six points in three games to kick December off, the 29-year old has posted just two goals, seven points, and a -6 rating in 10 games. He has posted a season-worst -4 rating against the Islanders on Tuesday. Captain Alex Ovechkin, who has posted two goals and four points during a four-game point streak, is currently tied with Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon for fourth in the league with 24 goals this season. He has a -8 rating in his last seven games, including a -4 in the Capitals’ 6-3 loss to the Hurricanes on Saturday.
The Capitals’ average of 3.49 goals-per-game is tied with the Panthers for the fourth-highest in the NHL while their power-play, which has gone three-for-27 in the past seven games, ranks 11th with a 21.3% efficiency rate. Their 84.9% efficiency on the penalty-kill is the third-best in the NHL behind only the San Jose Sharks (87.8%) and Boston Bruins (85.2%). The Capitals’ average of 31.9 shots-per-game ranks 13th while their average of 30 shots-against per game is seventh.
Goaltender Ilya Samsonov, who is 10-2-1 with a .918 save percentage and a 2.28 goals-against average this season, will start for the Capitals on Friday night after Braden Holtby has allowed 13 goals in his last three games, all losses. This will be the 22-year old’s first career start against the Hurricanes. He made 27 saves in the Capitals’ 2-1 overtime win over the Blue Jackets last Friday, his last start.
The Hurricanes continue a season-long seven-game homestand against the Capitals on Friday after opening it with two wins in a row, most recently over the Montreal Canadiens by a 3-1 count. They have won four of their past five on home ice (4-1-0), which followed a 2-4-0 stretch there, and are 12-6-0 at PNC Arena this season. The Hurricanes have won four straight home games against the Capitals dating back to last season’s first-round series after losing five in a row (0-2-3) to them in Raleigh.
The Hurricanes are clustered with four teams in the Metropolitan Division for Stanley Cup Playoff positioning as the teams are within just four points of each other. They currently occupy the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with 50 points. Prior to their winning streak, the Hurricanes lost three straight in regulation which followed a 4-0-1 road-trip. Before allowing one goal in Tuesday’s win against the Canadiens, they yielded 21 in their previous four games.
The Hurricanes’ average of 2.80 goals-against per game ranks eighth in the NHL while their average of 3.35 goals-per-game is ninth. Their 23.8% power-play efficiency is tied with the St. Louis Blues for sixth in the league while their 82.1% penalty-killing rate is good for 11th. The Hurricanes’ average of 34.1 shots-per-game heading into Friday’s tilt is tied with the Vegas Golden Knights and Nashville Predators for second in the league behind only the Canadiens (35.5). Their average of 29 shots-against per game is tied with the Philadelphia Flyers for the second-fewest.
Forward Teuvo Teravainen’s 40 points in 40 games this season lead the Hurricanes and are tied for the 19th-most in the league. His 33 assists are currently tied with New York Rangers forward Artemi Panarin for the seventh-most. The 25-year old has not scored a goal since November 24 but has 14 assists in his past 11 games. Though, the Capitals held him off of the scoresheet last week. Center Sebastian Aho, who has been held off of the scoresheet against the Capitals this season, leads the Hurricanes with 23 goals this season. Defenseman Dougie Hamilton’s 13 goals this season are currently tied with Carlson for second in the league among defensemen, behind only Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators (14). His +31 rating is the best in the NHL this season.
Goaltender Petr Mrazek, who is 16-8-2 with a .902 save percentage, a 2.67 goals-against average, and two shutouts this season, will likely be in net for the Hurricanes on Friday night. In 11 career games against the Capitals, the 27-year old is 4-5-2 with a .912 save percentage, a 2.65 goals-against average, and one shutout. He made 25 saves in the Hurricanes’ 6-4 win over the Capitals on Saturday.
- Carlson enters Friday’s game vs. the Hurricanes four assists shy of passing Peter Bondra (353) for the eighth-most assists in franchise history
- Among rookie goaltenders with at least five games played, Samsonov ranks first in points percentage (.808), goals-against average (2.28) and save percentage (.918); on the road this season, Samsonov is 7-0-0 on the road with a 2.08 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage; he is the only goaltender in NHL history to win his first seven road starts
- The Capitals have outscored opponents by 12 goals (79-67) on the road this season and are tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs for the most road goals and have recorded more road wins this season (16) than all but one team has at home (Pittsburgh Penguins: 16 wins)
- The Capitals are 16-1-3 this season when they score the game’s first goal
By Harrison Brown