Turns out that was just the start. Williams had two goals and an assist in his fourth multi-point game this season, and linemate Ray Whitney had four points Friday night in the Carolina Hurricanes’ 6-2 victory over the Washington Capitals.
“There’s one word to describe it – it was awesome,” Williams said. “I was just nonstop smiling the whole time I was (at the all-star game), and it was something I’ll never forget . . . I felt good (in this game) but you’ve got to give a lot of credit to my linemates. I thought we moved the puck well, we supported each other well and Ray had a big night.”
Whitney had a goal and three assists, and Rod Brind’Amour, Cory Stillman and Eric Staal also scored. The Hurricanes scored three goals in the second period and outshot the Capitals 41-26 to snap a two-game losing streak.
“Skating well and getting on our power play was probably the biggest reason why we looked so much better in the second period than we did in the first,” Whitney said.
Alexander Ovechkin scored his team-leading 30th goal and Chris Clark added a goal on a deflection for Washington, which has lost five of six and is one point ahead of last-place Florida in the Southeast Division.
Cam Ward made 24 saves for the Hurricanes, who took a 3-2 series lead against the Capitals. Brent Johnson stopped 35 shots for Washington but allowed at least six goals for the second time this season.
“It was just a lot of clutter. It didn’t seem like anyone was getting pucks on sticks,” Johnson said. “We were missing passes and they were jumping on us and beating us to the puck and capitalizing on our mistakes.”
Williams gave Carolina the lead for good when he scored about five minutes into the second period. Whitney set it up when he faked a shot and passed to Williams, who one-timed a blast past Johnson for his team-leading 25th goal.
“That’s why (Whitney) is out there . . . He’s an unbelievable playmaker, one of the best in the league, I think. He’s very underrated in that aspect in that he doesn’t get the recognition that he deserves for the little stuff that he does out there, and you can tell by his points this year, the way he racks up assists and helps his linemates.”
Stillman made it a two-goal game late in the second when he one-timed the puck past Johnson – from almost the same spot as Williams’ go-ahead goal – and Whitney scored about 90 seconds later to push the lead to three.
“We’ve got to realize these 5-4, 6-2, 6-1 games, they don’t look good and it’s semi-embarrassing,” Johnson said.
Williams’ big night capped an eventful week, and coach Peter Laviolette expects even better things from the sixth-year pro.
“He’s a young kid,” Laviolette said. “You hope they keep getting better.
“He’s certainly capable of it.”
Brind’Amour had put Carolina up 1-0 when he scored four minutes into the game, and Williams beat Johnson with a slapshot to give the Hurricanes a two-goal lead after about 10 minutes of play.
Washington rallied, with Clark scoring on a deflection off his skate late in the first period – his third fluky goal against Carolina in nine days – and Ovechkin hammered a rebound past Ward in the opening minute of the second to tie it 2-2.
Notes: The Hurricanes activated D Tim Gleason from injured reserve, giving them the luxury of seven defencemen for the first time in weeks. He missed 13 games with a broken left foot . . . Ovechkin entered tied for third in the league with 65 points . . . Whitney has points in eight straight games and with a team-best 57 points already has surpassed his total of 55 from 2005-06 . . . Things got chippy between Carolina RW Scott Walker and Clark, who traded punches after a second-period pileup in front of the Washington net.