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Opportunity lost for Caps

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Sports,NHL,Brian McNally

Carolina comes back from two-goal deficit

 

No lead is safe at this time of year in the NHL. The games mean too much and even teams out of the Stanley Cup playoff race get caught up in the drama.

The Capitals had a two-goal lead over the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday at Verizon Center and it lasted just over four minutes. A golden opportunity to snap a losing streak instead turned into a night of regret when Justin Faulk's overtime goal lifted the Hurricanes to a 4-3 victory and cost Washington a critical standings point.

"This time of year you can't judge yourself by your intentions, it's by your results," Caps forward Brooks Laich said. "It's a game we had to have. It's tough to take right now. But we have to move on."

About the only plus for Washington (32-28-6, 70 points) is that it pulled one point clear of 10th-place Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference playoff chase. The Lighting (31-29-6, 68 points), who lost to Ottawa on Tuesday, play here at Verizon Center on Thursday night. The Caps are also now two points behind No. 8 Winnipeg (32-27-8, 72 points) for the final playoff spot with one game in hand.

That they registered a point at all was thanks to Laich's game-tying goal with 2 minutes, 52 seconds remaining in regulation. A nice give-and-go with teammate Marcus Johansson set it up. But far too many mistakes allowed Carolina to erase the original 2-0 lead in the first place.

Defenseman Dennis Wideman made one in the third period when he tried to keep the puck in the offensive zone, whiffed and allowed a breakaway goal by Brandon Sutter. He made another tactical error by pushing up during 4-on-4 play in overtime and getting caught at the wrong time. That led to a 2-on-1 with Sutter and Faulk, who whipped his shot past goalie Michal Neuvirth for the victory.

"Those are the plays that cost you playoff series, that don't let you get into the playoffs. Just a bad play," Wideman said. "I should have probably just backed up and took the 2-on-1. I was just trying to whack it in the corner. ... In a tie hockey game that's probably a 50 percent play. Just stupid."

The Caps took a 1-0 lead in the first period thanks to some fine work from Troy Brouwer, who skated onto a puck and drove the net hard. It looked like Carolina goalie Cam Ward had it until Brouwer poked the puck loose and snuck around the opposite side for a goal. Jay Beagle pushed the advantage to 2-0 in the second period.

But that advantage would last all of 4:19. Just 40 seconds after Beagle's goal, Jiri Tlusty finished a cross-ice feed from Jerome Samson to make it 2-1. Minutes later, a Tim Gleason point shot banged off the boards and took a perfect deflection to the opposite side where the net was wide open. Chad LaRose tied the game at 2.

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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