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Capitals sense determined Hurricanes heading into Game 2

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

The Washington Capitals won Game 1 of the first-round Eastern Conference playoff series against Carolina Thursday night. But the Hurricanes made it tough with a strong third period, and the host Capitals want to play better overall in Game 2 on Saturday afternoon.

The Capitals jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period of Game 1 but that paints a bit of an incomplete picture of how the night unfolded. Carolina kept pushing and didn't give up a shot for nine minutes.

Nicklas Backstrom ultimately broke through with a goal for the Capitals and added another late in the opening period before Alex Ovechkin also scored on the way to a 4-2 victory.

Washington wasn't able to work its way into the offense zone as much as it would have liked. Ovechkin scored his 62nd playoff goal-tying him with Bobby Hull for 27th all time - while Backstrom reached 100 playoff points, becoming the ninth active player to do that. Two of the three first-period goals came on power plays.

Even defenseman John Carlson joined in on the fun. He assisted on all three first-period goals, tying an NHL playoff record for assists in a period.

Lars Eller came up with key goals in last year's Stanley Cup run and did it again in this game, sealing the victory with an empty-net goal in the final minute. Making the day even more complete was news that Washington had signed Nic Dowd to a three-year $2.25 million contract extension.

Head coach Todd Reirden talked about how he wants to see Washington in the Carolina end more often in Game 2 and going forward.

"I'd like to see us ... force them to defend a little longer," Reirden said. "Some of our offense came off chances that were generated rush-wise, more so than forecheck opportunities that turned into long, extended offensive zone shifts, which is where you can really force some of their really offensive defensemen to be not so active in the rush."

The Hurricanes had not been in the playoffs since 2009, but they rarely looked out of place in their first Game 1 in nearly a decade.

Carolina often took the play to the Capitals and did not fold when Washington took the early lead. The Hurricanes rallied with two third-period goals that cut the margin to 3-2.

They drew two penalties in the final nine minutes that Washington was able to kill. On the second call, against T.J. Oshie, which came with 3:31 left, Coach Rod Brind'Amour pulled goalie Petr Mrazek halfway through that extra-man chance to give the Hurricanes a 6-on-4 edge.

But the Capitals stood firm. Carolina outshot Washington 29-18, constantly causing trouble with their high-speed rush. They received two goals from 19-year old Andrei Svechnikov in the third period.

Mrazek stopped a few Washington breakaways that would have locked up the game earlier in the period.

They learned from Game 1 and want to take those lessons and improve in Saturday's Game 2.

"We've got to take some time, come back tomorrow, refresh the batteries, and look at how we can get a little better to see if we can win a game here; that's the goal," Brind'Amour said afterward. "The emotions are a little tough right now ... but we'll be back."

--Field Level Media

Updated April 13, 2019

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