RALEIGH, N.C. – Jussi Jokinen scored when the Carolina Hurricanes were both up and down a man. That kind of production made their special teams seem, well, pretty special.
Jokinen had two goals and Cam Ward made 23 saves for his 18th career shutout in the Hurricanes’ 3-0 victory over the Washington Capitals on Friday night.
Jiri Tlusty added a late goal and Eric Staal had two assists, including the early hustle play that led to Carolina’s eighth short-handed goal of the season.
The Hurricanes, who entered in last place in the Southeast Division, beat the first-place Capitals for the first time this season and defeated them in regulation at home for the first time in more than two years.
“It’s a huge thing for us. We still feel our division is wide open, and our best chance to make the playoffs is to win the division,” Jokinen said. “Obviously, that’s a huge feeling … I hope we can keep climbing up.”
Tomas Vokoun stopped 30 shots for Washington, which had won four of five and entered 8-0-1 in its last nine against Carolina. The Capitals were 0 for 3 on the power play while the Hurricanes had two goals with the man advantage plus the short-handed one, leading new coach Dale Hunter to conclude that special teams were the difference in this one.
“Our power play gave up more chances than we got,” he said.
Ward earned his fourth career shutout against Washington. He was impenetrable in his second shutout of the season and first since blanking Chicago in October.
His best save might have come midway through the second period, when he froze while making a pretty glove save on Mathieu Perreault’s slap shot, perhaps unsure of whether he actually had the puck.
“I thought we worked our butts off and played a solid 60-minute game,” Ward said. “It’s a tough team to play against. They play a different style now. They’re looking for that low-scoring (game), not their traditional 6-5 games in the past. You’ve got to be careful because you’re not doing a whole lot of work, but they’ve got a ton of skill over there, and we were sharp all night.”
The Capitals weren’t, with right wing Troy Brouwer saying they were “just lazy.”
“We got outworked,” he said. “We tried to make cute, tough plays through the seams. I was a culprit of that once or twice as well. We’re not pointing fingers at anybody, but we’ve just got to collectively work harder.”
They’ve also got to figure out how to slow Jokinen, who once again played his best against them. Four of his seven goals this season have come against the Capitals, including his team’s lone goal in a 2-1 loss in Washington five nights earlier.
“For some reason, I feel good playing against them,” Jokinen said.
He would have had a hat trick by the second intermission—had Vokoun not used his glove to rob him on a breakaway with 7 1/2 minutes left in the second.
He put the Hurricanes up 2-0 in the final minute of the second. With 29 seconds left on an interference minor to Dennis Wideman, Jay Harrison fired a shot off Vokoun’s pads and Jokinen sent a rebound past the goalie.
That came after Staal made the key play that led to the Hurricanes’ first goal with 7:17 left in the first.
Hustling and forechecking on the penalty kill, the Carolina captain poked the puck from John Carlson just inside the blue line. Staal then tapped the puck to Jokinen, who was storming toward Vokoun and beat the goalie with a wrist shot that left Carlson whacking his stick on the ice in frustration.
“As a group and as a team, we’re playing a lot more of a consistent brand,” Staal said. “We haven’t won every game, but at least we felt good about our losses, if that makes any sense. We’ve competed hard and been in every game, and played a brand that, if we can do (that) for 60 minutes, we’ll get the right results.”
NOTES: Staal has points in four straight home games. … Only the New Jersey Devils (11) have more short-handed goals than the Hurricanes. … Washington RW Mike Knuble rang the left post while facing an open net roughly 2 minutes into the second. … Carolina C Jeff Skinner played his first home game since returning from a concussion that cost him 16 games.