It was a mismatch on paper, and it was a mismatch on the ice. Brian Pinho and Martin Fehervary scored twice each, Pinho, Bobby Nardella and Joe Snively had three points each, and Ilya Samsonov stopped 37 shots to help the Caps to a 10-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes in the opening game of the 2019 Prospect Showcase on Saturday afternoon in Antioch, Tenn.
The Caps brought 18 drafted players to the 2019 Prospect Showcase in Nashville while Carolina had just nine. Washington's total is the highest among the four teams at the tourney while Carolina's total is tied with Nashville for the fewest.
The Caps are icing a young team at the Showcase this year, but many of their players played in the tournament last year. Hershey head coach Spencer Carbery also has a greater level of familiarity, having coached in the Showcase last year. Much of the Canes' roster is populated with free agent invitees hoping to score a pro deal after finishing up at either the college or junior level.
"I thought we did a lot of good things," says Carbery, "including some of the stuff that we introduced the last couple of days, since getting together. So to start and for everybody to come together in the first game for these guys in several months, it was a good building block and a good start to the tournament."
The Caps came to play, and they grabbed an early multiple-goal lead before the Canes really found their legs. Pinho scored off the rush off a feed from Connor McMichael at 5:46, and Beck Malenstyn doubled the lead just 50 seconds later, bagging an Aliaksei Protas rebound from the top of the paint. Nardella collected the second assist on Pinho's goal, and Samsonov picked up the secondary helper on Malenstyn's tally.
Carolina had the only power-play opportunity of the first period some 90 seconds after the Malenstyn marker, but Samsonov moved laterally to his left to deny Eetu Luostarinen's bid from the back door to preserve the two-goal cushion.
The Hurricanes were more of a presence in the Washington end in the second half of the first frame, but Snively sprung Caps defenseman Martin Fehervary into Carolina ice late in the period, and the Slovakian blueliner showed some skill, taking the puck to the net and tucking it through Canes goalie Jeremy Helvig at 17:58.
Washington kept adding to its lead in the early minutes of the second period. With help from linemates Snively and McMichael, Pinho netted his second of the afternoon in the first minute of the middle frame, and Garrett Pilon made it a 5-0 Caps lead at 3:21, zipping a wrist shot past Helvig from the right circle. Sebastian Walfridsson earned the lone assist on Pilon's goal.
Once again, Carolina got better as the period wore on. The Canes had the only power play of the second period as well, and the Caps kept them off the board during that extra-man chance, but Luostarinen finally solved Samsonov with 63 seconds left in the second, making it a 5-1 game.
Less than half a minute later, Snively fired a high wrister past Helvig from the high slot to restore that five-goal bulge, Pinho and Alexander Alexeyev assisting.
Carolina defenseman Chase Priskie - a Caps' draft choice in the 2016 NHL Draft - scored early in the third to make it 6-2, and Carolina's Leif Mattson scored at 4:03 of the third to make it 6-3. But Washington scored the last four goals of the game, with three of those last four lamplighters coming off the sticks of defensemen.
Nardella finished off a beautiful passing sequence, getting help from Pilon and Malentsyn to make it 7-3 at 5:16. Just over two minutes later, Fehervary kept a clearing attempt in Carolina ice at the right point and fired a low shot through traffic for his second goal of the game, an unassisted strike.
Shane Gersich converted a wily indirect feed from Nardella; the defenseman put the puck off Helvig's pad and right onto Gersich's tape for an easy rebound goal. Kristofers Bindulis put the Caps into double digits in the game's final minute, with Gersich claiming the lone assist.
Washington's defensemen accounted for four goals and eight points in the tournament opener.
"It's something that Washington to Hershey, we try to get our defensemen do all of the time," says Carbery. "We want them involved, and you saw it. It was a perfect example with Bindulis, Bobby Nardella and Marty Fehervary up in the rush. And that's no different with the big club. So these guys that are pushing to make the Washington Capitals; you have to be able to do that. And you saw some of that today, which was nice."
For Washington, the lone blemish on the afternoon was an injury to Caps center Riley Sutter early in the third. Sutter, who had a strong game to that point, collapsed in obvious pain and stayed down for a minute or so before skating off under his own power. Carbery was unsure as to the extent of the injury afterwards.
"That's the worst part of this, for both teams," laments Carbery. "You don't want to see any injuries in rookie tournaments, so that stinks for Riley. I'm not sure how bad it is. All indicators are that it's not great, but I'm not sure the extent of it."
A third-round choice (93rd overall) in the 2018 NHL Draft, Sutter missed the last half of the 2018-19 season with an injury. He is expected to turn pro this season.
Notes: Gersich, Malenstyn and Pilon sported the alternate captains' "A" for the Capitals … Logan Thompson was dressed as Samsonov's backup.