WASHINGTON – It sure didn’t take long for Nathan Gerbe to make his presence felt with his new team, the Carolina Hurricanes.
Gerbe’s third goal in four games broke a tie at 6:59 of the third period, and Anton Khudobin stopped 30 shots as the Hurricanes beat the Washington Capitals 3-2 Thursday night.
Signed as a free agent in July following five unspectacular seasons with Buffalo, Gerbe has helped Carolina get off to a 2-1-1 start. He gives much of the credit to teammates Jordan Staal and Patrick Dwyer.
“They’re two great players,” Gerbe said. “Obviously, playing with them makes the game simpler. We’ve been able to create some chemistry, beginning in training camp.”
Carolina coach Kirk Muller believes Gerbe deserves most of the praise for his strong start.
“He’s doing a lot of things well without the puck,” Muller said. “He’s competes and he works and he’s really worked for his goals so far. It was a huge one tonight.”
After twice making up one-goal deficits, the Hurricanes took their first lead in the third period. Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby stopped a pair of shots before Gerbe stuffed in the second rebound from the right side of the net.
“I just tried to stay around the net,” Gerbe said. “I saw (the puck) pop up and tried to get it back. It just trickled in.”
Elias Lindholm scored his first NHL goal and former Capital Alexander Semin also tallied for the Hurricanes, now 25-2-4 over the past nine seasons against Washington when scoring at least three goals.
It was the first meeting of the season between two teams now competing in the newly formed Metro Division.
“These are the games you have to reach down and give a little extra because they’re going to be a little more intense,” Muller said. “I thought our guys were really focused from the start. Great performance.”
Jason Chimera and Alex Ovechkin had goals for the Capitals, who took four of five from Carolina last season. Ovechkin has seven points (five goals, two assists), his most after four games since 2010.
Washington had a power play over the final 26 seconds and pulled Holtby, but Khudobin withstood the late charge.
“I thought both teams played well,” coach Adam Oates said. “I thought we did a lot of good things. … Obviously you don’t want to lose them, but if you show up and play like that for 60 minutes, you’re going to win your share.”
Right now, though, Washington is 1-3 despite holding the lead in all four of its games.
“It’s going to be tough to catch up to teams if you fall too far behind,” centre Nicklas Backstrom said. “We have to make sure to we look ourselves in the mirror and do a better job. This is not good enough, that’s for sure.”
The Capitals went 0 for 5 with the extra man after converting six of 12 power-play opportunities during their first three games.
Chimera gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead with his first goal of the season at 5:33 of the opening period. Eric Fehr dumped the puck into the Carolina zone, Khudobin knocked it to the left circle and Chimera fired it back between the goaltender’s legs.
Lindholm tied it at 12:58 of the second period with a shot that glanced off the stick of Washington defenceman John Carlson. Less than a minute later, Ovechkin put Washington back in front by deflecting a shot by Steve Olesky into the net.
Semin’s first goal of the season, a blast from the top of the left circle with Carolina on the power play, made it 2-all.
NOTES: It was the opener of a five-game homestand for the Capitals, their longest of the season. … The Hurricanes have played 1,200 games since moving from Hartford. They’ve won 536 of them. … D Alexander Urbom made his Capitals debut. He was claimed off waivers from New Jersey last week. … Sixteen of the past 26 meetings between the teams have been decided by one goal. Washington is 11-1-4 in those games.