While the North Carolina State Fair is taking place on the grounds adjacent to the RBC Center, the Canes must hit the road for two weeks. The team thought that they would be able to "find themselves" on the road, but it hasn't happened yet. This time, there would be no opening night jitters as an excuse. There would be no reference to family members being dangerously close to an enormous toxic chemical fire. There would be no handy excuse. Not that they've offered any so far.
I couldn't watch the live broadcast of the game, and I haven't had a chance to view the DVR yet, but I've seen the highlights and the scoresheet.
At 12:38 of the first, "the other Alex" Semin started the scoring on a big shot from the high slot. A Canes turnover in neutral ice led to a Caps rush. Anton Babchuk was the only Canes defenseman anywhere near the play, and Semin wasted no time ripping his slap shot past him and Cam Ward. Chris Clark had the only assist.
Andrew Ladd scored his first goal of the season at 1:40 of the second. The Canes were on a power play, and were moving the puck around nicely. Tim Gleason unleashed a big time shot from the left point which was slightly redirected by Andrew Ladd on the way in. The assist was Gleason's first point as a Cane. Viva got the other assist, his second of the young but disappointing season.
At 5:21, Nic "The Secret Weapon" Wallin, who lives in Apex and whose home was in the evacuation area after Thursday's chemical fire ( story), scored a nice goal to give the Canes a brief 2-1 lead. There was some nice puck movement down in the Washington end on the right side. Wallin knocked in a wrist shot from just above the right circle. The assists went to Scott Walker and Eric Belanger, both of whom earned their first point as a Cane on the play.
With a delayed penalty in hand, the Caps set up a nice scoring play for Alexander Semin at 9:11. He took a pass at the top of the right circle, faked a shot, hesitated, then he beautifully placed his wrister in the top right corner of Ward's goal. He had all the time in the world to do whatever he wanted to do, and he put his shot in a very precise spot. Brian Pothier and Rico Fata got the assists.
The second period ended 2-2, but the third frame would not be kind to the Canes.
Alex Ovechkin scored at 8:03 of the third, for what would prove to be the game winner. Some sloppy passing in the Caps end led to a turnover. Chris Clark and AO rushed into the Carolina zone, with three Canes back. It wouldn't be enough,though. AO took a wrist shot from the right side of the right circle that found its way through Eric Belanger and Nic Wallin, then beat Cam Ward badly. Clark got the only helper on the play, his second of the game.
AO struck again at 13:03. While the Caps were enjoying a power play, Brian Pothier unleashed a blue line slap shot that was deflected in by #8. Pothier got his second assist of the game, and Chris Clark his third.
It wasn't over, though. Semin struck again, getting his hat trick goal at 17:13. The Caps were on a 5-on-3, applying lots of pressure. Semin got a rebound out by the left post and slammed it in for the 5-2 score. Kris Beech got one assist, and Brian Pothier got the other, his third of the game.
One of many things that the Canes will have to work on is their discipline. The Canes took 10 penalties on Saturday, marking the second time in three games they have had double digit penalties. This has to stop. Last season, they were one of the four or five least penalized teams in the NHL, and many people attributed their success in large part to their disciplined play. Two of Washington's goals came on the power play, and another came with a delayed penalty in hand. If Carolina is going to continue to commit 10 penalties per game, they're not going to win any games.
"We're kidding ourselves. We're taking bad penalties instead of doing the work. We're mouthing off instead of doing the work. Selfish acts are costing us games. It needs to be fixed. It needs to be corrected. It will be."
The "mouthing off" refers to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that Eric Staal took in the third period that created the 5-on-3 chance. He was complaining to the refs about Alexander Ovechkin, and the ref heard too much. It's clear that the referees aren't going to put up with any belly aching this season. On Wednesday, Adam Mair of the Sabres took an unsportsmanlike penalty for the exact same thing. Unless you have a C or an A on your chest, you're not supposed to gripe to the refs. They've always let it go in the past, but it looks like they're not going to tolerate any chirping this season.
Today, the Canes were supposed to have an off day. They won't. They'll have practice, and I'm sure it'll be one of the more grueling practices they've ever had.
Next, the road trip goes to Florida on Wednesday.