The positions are reversed heading into the final 40 games this
The streaking Capitals improved to 6-0-3-2 during their recent
hot stretch, while the Hurricanes have lost 11 of 17 and fell two
games under .500 for the first time since Oct. 17 -- a 2-1 home loss
"Our team is playing well right now and they don't need a lot
of motivation or stepping on the gas," Washington coach Bruce
Jeff Halpern and Andreas Salomonsson had two assists each for
Washington, which tied Tampa Bay for first place in the Southeast.
The Capitals also moved four points ahead of the defending Eastern
Conference champion Hurricanes, who were booed throughout by many
in the crowd of 16,553.
"Obviously they're frustrated and we're frustrated right now
with not being able to put the puck in the net," Glen Wesley said.
"We've got to stick together here as a group and believe we can do
this. We've the ones that have dug ourselves a hole and we've got
to get ourselves out of this very quickly."
Ron Francis' 15th goal early in the second pulled Carolina to
2-1, but Steve Konowalchuk gave Washington another two-goal lead
seconds after getting out of the penalty box, beating Arturs Irbe
on a rebound shot.
Peter Bondra's 16th through a maze of Carolina players 1:55 into
the third put Washington up 4-1 and took the rest of the fight out
"In between the second and third, the main thought for everyone
in the room was that we needed to start developing a killer
instinct and put teams away," Grier said. "We came out from the
start of the third and put pressure on them and kept an aggressive
frame of mind."
The Hurricanes fell behind 2-0 halfway through the first -- and
it could have been much worse.
Grier scored 46 seconds in when Carolina defenseman Sean Hill
got caught out of position making a check across the blue line with
the Hurricanes trying to make a line change.
"The coaches made us aware that they have been struggling a
little bit in the first period and we wanted to come out hard at
them and make it hard for them to come back," Grier said.
Carolina gained some momentum after killing off a 5-on-3
Washington power play for 1:27, but less than a minute later Miller
beat Irbe from the slot on a nice feed from Salomonsson.
Bondra and Jaromir Jagr hit the right post in between the two
Washington goals as the Capitals had Carolina's defense reeling.
"They've got some guys who can make you look foolish one-on-one
and they certainly did at times," Carolina coach Paul Maurice
said. "We just looked slow in all the things we did."
Jaroslav Svoboda, who has gone 32 games without a goal, was
a healthy scratch for the first time this season for Carolina. ...
The Hurricanes have given up the first goal in 15 of their last 17
games. ... Francis wore a full face shield after getting 25
stitches in his lip late in the game against the New York Rangers
on Wednesday. ... Halpern's 16 assists are two more than he had
last season in 48 games. ... Carolina fell to 2-6-2-1 against
Southeast Division opponents after going 11-3-5-1 last season. ...
Bondra has 29 goals in 46 career games against Carolina.