RALEIGH, N.C. – The Washington Capitals aren’t used to late-season games like this where the only thing at stake is pride.
While they hate being in this position, at least they’re making the best of it.
Troy Brouwer scored two goals in the Capitals’ 5-2 rout of the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night.
All three members of Washington’s third line—Joel Ward, Jason Chimera and Eric Fehr—each had a goal and two assists. They helped the Capitals claim an easy win in this Metropolitan Division matchup of teams knocked out of the playoff race.
“We went out there and we want to finish the season off right so that we can have some good games,” Brouwer said. “Maybe a little consolation smile on your face when you go into the summertime, I guess.”
Braden Holtby stopped 36 shots for Washington, which won its third straight after losing five in a row.
This one came one night after the Capitals learned they would miss the post-season for the first time in seven years.
“That’s all we can do right now, is just go out and try to play the system correctly, and try to get good results from it,” Fehr said.
Jiri Tlusty scored a short-handed goal, Radek Dvorak added a late goal and Anton Khudobin finished with 16 saves for the Hurricanes.
Playing their home finale, they lost their third straight—their seventh losing streak of at least three games this season.
“It wasn’t good enough. Clearly,” Carolina captain Eric Staal said. “We had breakdowns, and they ended up in our net. It just wasn’t good enough, and there’s not much else to say. We needed to be better than we were tonight. I feel bad for the fans who were here watching and came out to support us.”
Tlusty briefly made things interesting when he pulled the Hurricanes within a goal at 2-1 by finishing on a short-handed 2-on-1 rush at 17:16 of the second period.
It was all Capitals after that.
Brouwer restored Washington’s two-goal lead with 35.1 seconds left in the second when he one-timed a cross-ice feed from Marcus Johansson past Khudobin.
Fehr made it a three-goal game 2:25 into the third and Brouwer stretched it to 5-1 62 seconds later by slipping the puck between Khudobin’s legs for his 25th goal of the season.
“It was a team that was having fun tonight playing hockey,” Brouwer said, “but unfortunately, it’s not for a whole lot.”
Both teams were playing their first game since being eliminated from the playoff chase.
These meaningless late-season games are new to the Capitals, who until now had made the post-season every year since 2007.
The Hurricanes are certainly used to this.
They’re out of the playoffs for the fifth straight year—the longest active streak in the Eastern Conference—and the seventh time in eight years since they won the Stanley Cup in 2006.
“It hasn’t been easy” for the fans, Staal said, “and it hasn’t been easy for me the past five years.”
And with nothing on the line for either team except pride—and in an arena almost completely devoid of energy—this game quickly took on a rather loose feel.
“It wasn’t a good game overall,” Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. “To me, it looked like two teams that just pretty much in the last couple days were mathematically out of the playoffs and it just looked like a sloppy game. I don’t think it was really a good hockey game by either team. But for our last game at home, we were looking for more.”
Ward started the scoring with an easy goal 62 seconds in when he sent the puck into an open net. Chimera made it 2-0 at 10:58 of the second when he skated along the end line and slipped the puck under Khudobin’s right leg.
“It was one of those nights where things were going well for us,” Fehr said. “We could tell that the guys were feeling good.”
NOTES: Capitals C Marcus Johansson assisted on both of Brouwer’s goals. … Washington has won four straight at PNC Arena and improved to 14-5-3 in the series since 2010-11. … The Hurricanes’ season award winners were announced before the game, with the players voting C Manny Malhotra the Steve Chiasson Award winner for determination and dedication, and local writers selecting D Andrej Sekera as the team MVP.
Follow Joedy McCreary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joedyap