If you are a Carolina Hurricanes fan there was a lot to like about the team’s Game 1 performance against the Washington Capitals, even if it all ended with a 4-2 loss and a 1-0 series deficit.
For one, the Hurricanes didn’t look overwhelmed against the defending Stanley Cup champions and actually carried the play at even-strength for much of the night. They started fast, had their chances, and mostly limited what the Capitals were able to do. It was a solid performance that showed they belong. Prized rookie Andre Svechnikov also had an incredible playoff debut by scoring a pair of goals in the third period to cut what had been a 3-0 deficit to just a single goal before Lars Eller‘s empty-net goal put the game away.
Because of those developments there is reason to believe the Hurricanes can not only give the Capitals a serious fight in this series, but that they are also perfectly capable of winning it.
[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]
If that is going to happen, though, the Hurricanes are going to have to solve the one area that failed them on Thursday, and that of course is stopping the Capitals’ lethal power play. And also taking advantage of the opportunities they get.
The Capitals scored two power play goals in the first period — one from Nicklas Backstrom, another from Alex Ovechkin — to help jump out to a three-goal lead that was simply too much of a deficit for the Hurricanes to overcome.
While the Capitals power play converted on two of its four chances, the Hurricanes went 0-for-3 on their opportunities, including two chances in the final eight minutes when they had an opportunity to tie the game.
Simply put, the special teams were the difference in the game.
This is going to be the big issue for the Hurricanes in this series.
They can play a style that will give the Capitals issues. Their speed is an asset, they control the puck, and they will limit what the Capitals can do offensively at even-strength.
The problem is that for as good as the Hurricanes have been in the second half, and for as talented as their young roster is, the Capitals still have Hall of Fame players that can be difference-makers.
They may not get a lot of opportunities in this matchup, but they do not really need a lot of opportunities because of their skill.
We saw that on display on Thursday as Backstrom scored a pair of goals, Ovechkin scored yet another postseason power play goal, and John Carlson tallied three assists.
The Capitals still have the superstars in this series, and they shined when they needed to.
Hurricanes-Capitals Game 2 will be Saturday at 3 p.m. ET on NBC
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.