Hurricanes rout capitals, lose Kotkaniemi to injury | Sports News

By STEPHEN WHYNO, AP Hockey Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Carolina Hurricanes have given the Washington Capitals food for thought if the division rivals meet in the playoffs.

Martin Necas scored twice, Sebastian Aho added his 29th goal and the Hurricanes routed the Capitals 6-1 on Monday night in an eventual first-round preview that ignited. Carolina’s first win in four games this season came at a cost after center Jesperi Kotkaniemi was injured on a hit with 1.8 seconds left.

Before Kotkaniemi limped off after a penalty kick from Lars Eller, the highlight of the night was a heavyweight fight between Brendan Smith and Tom Wilson after tensions simmered for half the match.

Wilson tied Vincent Trocheck with a shoulder-to-chest hit at center ice in the second period, and he wanted to fight Smith early in the third before the officials intervened. Wilson and Smith finally dropped the gloves midway through the third, each landing several punches in a fight that sparked a crowd that had been sleeping for much of the match.

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If fireworks were a sign of things to come, a Hurricanes-Capitals playoff would be entertainment not to be missed. This result brought this step closer to reality.

Beating Washington allowed Metropolitan Division-leading Carolina to keep pace with Florida at the top of the Eastern Conference. The Hurricanes are one point ahead of the Panthers in the home-and-away race for the top seed, which would likely mean a series against the Capitals instead of Boston, Toronto or two-time defending Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay. .

After losing to the Capitals in a home shootout 10 days ago and less than a month after being kicked out of that building, the Hurricanes have made numerous statements to show they would not be disadvantaged if the teams faced each other at the beginning of May.

It started well before the puck drop with coach Rod Brind’Amour, No. 1 goaltender Frederik Andersen, against backup Antti Raanta despite a visit to the Lightning looming in the second half of a streak on Tuesday. consecutive. Andersen stopped 25 of the 26 shots he faced, with most of the pressure coming in the first half of the second period when the Capitals tilted the ice towards him.

Much of the rest of the game was all about Carolina, perhaps a product of the opposite schedule for Washington: no game until Sunday and the next two days completely off. The Capitals had a burst of energy after the first intermission that culminated in Wilson’s goal and cut their deficit to one, but the fast-hitting Hurricanes responded less than two minutes later and left no doubt the result.

Veteran forward Derek Stepan and defensemen Brett Pesce and Brady Skjei also scored for the Hurricanes, who won for the second time in three games and extended their point streak to four. Washington’s Vitek Vanecek, who was pulled out to start the third after allowing five goals on 23 shots, gave up some poor rebounds but wasn’t to blame for his teammates’ disorderly play in the defensive zone and carelessness with the washer.

Prior to Wilson’s hit and the fight, this matchup hadn’t reached the usual level of intensity, which has skyrocketed since the teams met in the playoffs in 2019. Brind’Amour was acutely aware that he and the Hurricanes could be back for a rematch soon. , so a lot of thought has gone into this game.

“Both teams know what we’re both trying to do,” Brind’Amour said. “My question is, do you want to show something maybe different now or try something that might be something you have to do later, or are you holding back?”

Missing only injured defenseman Ethan Bear and forward Jordan Martinook, Carolina held very little in a showdown between two mostly healthy opponents. Washington only missed Nic Dowd, who has missed five straight games with an upper-body injury.

Hurricanes: Raanta is expected to start in goal in Tuesday night’s road trip finale in Tampa Bay.

Capitals: Host the Minnesota Wild on Sunday night after their long break.

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