Hur­ri­canes stun de­fend­ing cham­pion Cap­i­tals in dou­ble over­time

The Prince George Citizen - - Sports - Stephen WHYNO

WASH­ING­TON — Jordan Staal tied it in the third pe­riod, Brock McGinn scored in the sec­ond over­time and the Carolina Hur­ri­canes stormed back to stun the Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals 4-3 in Game 7 on Wed­nes­day night to elim­i­nate the de­fend­ing Stan­ley Cup cham­pi­ons.

McGinn dived to pre­vent a goal in the fi­nal minutes of reg­u­la­tion and then scored 11:05 into the sec­ond ex­tra pe­riod, and Petr Mrazek made 34 saves to con­tinue an up­set-heavy first round of the NHL playoffs. Carolina had the first nine shots of the first OT and 11 of 15 to­tal, with coach Rod Brind’Amour’s group show­ing it had plenty left in the tank.

Carolina showed the same never-quit at­ti­tude that helped it end the NHL’s long­est play­off drought after a decade by forc­ing a de­cid­ing sev­enth game and eras­ing a 3-1 deficit in it. Topline for­wards Se­bas­tian Aho and Teuvo Ter­a­vainen beat sur­pris­ingly shaky Cap­i­tals goal­tender Braden Holtby, who al­lowed four goals on 42 shots.

“Time and time again we’ve just manned up,” said Hur­ri­canes cap­tain Justin Wil­liams, who had an as­sist on McGinn’s win­ner. “It would have been easy to fold up, es­pe­cially against a team like that. ... Our guys re­ally fought.”

The Hur­ri­canes’ surge back in the se­ries with­out con­cussed winger An­drei Svech­nikov and in­jured winger Micheal Fer­land made it the first time in league his­tory that all four di­vi­sion cham­pi­ons were knocked out in the first round. Game 7 losses by Ve­gas and Wash­ing­ton on back-to-back nights elim­i­nated the two teams from last year’s Cup fi­nal in suc­ces­sion.

In one of the strangest first rounds in re­cent his­tory, the Hur­ri­canes beat­ing the Cap­i­tals doesn’t even rank at the top of un­likely out­comes after Colum­bus swept Pres­i­dents’ Trophy win­ning Tampa Bay and Colorado closed out Western Con­fer­ence top seed Cal­gary in five. With all four wild­card teams win­ning, Carolina now faces for­mer Cap­i­tals coach Barry Trotz and the New York Is­lan­ders in the sec­ond round start­ing Fri­day in Brook­lyn.

It looked after a lop­sided Game 5 and a cou­ple of two-goal leads by the Cap­i­tals in Game 7 that they were poised to move on. But the Hur­ri­canes closed the gap in the sec­ond pe­riod, tied the score on Staal’s third goal of the se­ries 2:56 into the third, forced over­time and cel­e­brated on Wash­ing­ton’s home ice.

Wil­liams – Mr. Game 7 with an NHL-record 15 points in the de­cid­ing games – and the Hur­ri­canes cel­e­brated their first se­ries vic­tory since 2009, while the Cap­i­tals lost in the first round for the first time since 2013. De­spite goals by An­dre Bu­rakovsky, Tom Wil­son and Evgeny Kuznetsov and a mon­ster game from cap­tain Alex Ovechkin, Wash­ing­ton fell to 4-8 in Game 7 dur­ing the Ovechkin era.

The Cap­i­tals joined the Preda­tors and Pen­guins as teams that all won at least one se­ries each of the past three years but failed to get out of the first round in these playoffs. They were hurt by a sea­so­nend­ing torn left ham­string to de­fence­man Michal Kempny and a bro­ken col­lar­bone on winger T.J. Oshie, whose appearance in the fi­nal minutes of reg­u­la­tion fired up the crowd but wasn’t enough to spark an OT win.

NOTES: Jac­cob Slavin set a Whalers/Hur­ri­canes fran­chise record for as­sists in a play­off se­ries with eight... Wil­liams im­proved to 8-1 all-time in Game 7... Svech­nikov missed his fourth con­sec­u­tive game after be­ing con­cussed in a fight with Ovechkin on April 15. ...The Cap­i­tals fell to 5-12 all-time in Game 7 and 3-9 at home. Up next

Carolina will visit the Is­lan­ders in Game 1 at Bar­clays Cen­ter in Brook­lyn on Fri­day night.

AP PHOTO

Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals left wing Alex Ovechkin reaches for the puck against Carolina Hur­ri­canes cen­ter Greg McK­egg (42) dur­ing the sec­ond pe­riod of Game 7 of an NHL hockey first-round play­off se­ries on Wed­nes­day in Wash­ing­ton.

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