RALEIGH, N.C. – It’s been quite a week for Washington’s Cody Eakin. First NHL game, first goal, first assist—and first faceful of shaving gel, courtesy of Alex Ovechkin.
Eakin’s first goal and first assist came during the Capitals’ 5-1 rout of the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night.
“It’ll be something I’ll remember,” Eakin said.
He was talking about his goal. But the rookie, who made his NHL debut Tuesday night after being called up from the minors earlier that day, just as easily could have been talking about the post-game celebration.
A message written on the dry-erase board in the dressing room read “Eakin always rockin the red,” a reference to the Capitals’ slogan. And as he discussed his big night with reporters, Ovechkin scurried across the room—a towel full of shaving gel in hand—and stuffed it in Eakin’s face.
“I didn’t see him celebrate crazy (on the ice), but he’s going to be a great player,” Ovechkin said. “He has unbelievable skill, and you can see how easy he put the puck in the net.”
Michal Neuvirth made 24 saves, Jeff Halpern and Troy Brouwer scored 1:09 apart in the second period, Nicklas Backstrom added a goal and an assist while John Carlson scored on a late power play to help the Capitals pull away.
Ovechkin added two assists for Southeast Division-leading Washington, which scored all five goals in the last two periods to overcome an early 1-0 deficit and improve to 7-0-1 in its last eight meetings with Carolina.
“It’s kind of a game where we have to play all four lines,” Ovechkin said. “Everybody was on (the same) page and everybody played well, I think, in the last two periods.”
Anthony Stewart scored on a deflection and Cam Ward stopped 27 shots for the Hurricanes, who have lost five of seven but did not earn a point for just the third time in that span.
“I don’t have an explanation for it, but we did not have the fire in order to win that game,” Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. “And that’s the bottom line. Whether it’s your passing, your hitting, whatever it is.”
The Capitals have won two straight since a two-game slide on the road interrupted their club-record 7-0 start. They entered averaging a league-best 3.9 goals, and after Ward stopped all 15 of their shots in the first period, they showed plenty of firepower early in the second period by scoring two goals in a little more than a minute.
Halpern—a healthy scratch for Tuesday night’s overtime win over Anaheim—tied it at one when he charged down the middle and laid out while sending the puck past Ward with 18:32 left. Not long after that, Washington took the lead when Marcus Johansson scooped up the puck at the blue line and fed it to Brouwer for a tap-in with 17:23 remaining to make it 2-1.
“I was worried about that after the first period, quite frankly, and then I looked up and there was 15 shots,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. “When Halpie got it, I went, ‘OK, sort of broke the shield’ and was hoping we could get some more, and Troy got one soon after.”
Carlson’s slap shot from behind the circle made it 3-1 with 16:45 left in the third, Eakin extended the lead to three midway through the third with his first career goal and Backstrom added a goal with 4:08 left.
That was more than enough offence to support Neuvirth. The backup to Tomas Vokoun made just his third appearance of the season and stopped the last 20 shots he faced over the final 56 1/2 minutes.
“I was nervous before the game because I didn’t play for a while, but I had a good practice (Thursday) and a good pre-game skate today, so I was confident coming into the game tonight,” Neuvirth said.
The only player to put the puck past him was Stewart, who gave the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead roughly 3 1/2 minutes in with his deflected goal. After Carolina won a draw, the puck made its way to Jay Harrison inside the blue-line, and he unloaded a shot that clipped Stewart’s stick on its way into the net.
Jeff Skinner thought he scored on a power play midway through the second when he stuffed a shot past Neuvirth, but an official blew the whistle before the puck got by the goalie, prompting the Hurricanes’ second-year star to slam his stick on the ice in frustration.
“That’s definitely not an excuse we’re going to use,” Skinner said.
NOTES: Brouwer added an assist on the Capitals’ fifth goal. … Ovechkin has five points in three games. … C Mathieu Perreault was a healthy scratch for Washington. … The Hurricanes haven’t beaten the Capitals in regulation at home since 2009.