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Caps can't close out Canes in Raleigh and don't have the road magic they had last spring, more

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps /

Fade To Blue - The start was there, but that was it. The Caps had a pair of precious one-goal leads - the first leads any road team has forged in this series - in the first period of Game 6 in Raleigh on Monday night. But Washington was unable to add to or to protect either of those leads. And as the game wore on, it was unable to match the desperation and drive shown by its hosts, the Carolina Hurricanes. The result was a 5-2 loss to the Canes, and a deciding Game 7 back in Washington on Wednesday night.

There was also the matter of Alex Ovechkin's apparent tying goal in the third period, a goal that was disallowed on the ice when it was scored. That call was upheld by video review, but the Caps certainly weren't in agreement with those decisions.

None of that matters now, though. It's Game 7 time in Washington once again, a scourge the Caps managed to avoid in their run to the Stanley Cup championship last season. They played - and won - only one Game 7 last spring, blanking the Bolts in Tampa Bay by a 4-0 count in the deciding contest of the Eastern Conference final series.

"They're a hard-working team, and they earned their breaks tonight," says Caps coach Todd Reirden of the Hurricanes. "I thought that they carried the play for some portions of the game, and I thought that was basically self-inflicted for some of it, in terms of how we were executing with the puck - whether it was breakouts that weren't as clean as they were a couple of nights ago, or it was plays at the blueline that didn't end up behind them.

"So those are things that we've got to get back to. They were a desperate team tonight, and were harder on those puck battles than we were. Instead of getting it in deep, they were able to go stick-on-puck and cause a turnover. It's an area where we've got to be better and we've got to spend more time in the offensive zone than we did tonight."

Video: Todd Reirden Postgame | April 22

It's Over And Done With - The Caps were certainly not in agreement with the call on Ovechkin's goal, and they weren't thrilled with the lack of explanation at the time of the goal being disallowed, nor were they pleased or in agreement with the league's email explanation after the fact.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter what the Caps or anyone else thinks about it. The officials make the calls, and according to Reirden, they feel less obligated to deliver explanations at this time of year. Consistency in calls on the ice - and even via video screens in the league's offices - has never been a strong suit of the NHL, and that dates back to roughly 1917-18. 

"It's kind of unclear for me as well right now," responded Reirden to a reporter who wondered what the officials' explanation for the call might be. "As playoffs go on, there is not as much communication between the refs and the coaches as there is during the regular season, so they made their decision, and it really wasn't up for debate. So they don't have to come and give you a reason why, and they did not come to the bench and tell me why."

You Met Your Match - The Caps got off to a good start by exploiting a match-up that Canes coach Rod Brind'Amour wanted. Brind'Amour opted to put his top forward line - centered by Sebastian Aho - on the ice against the Lars Eller line for Washington. On their second shift of the game against one another, the Caps took the first lead any road team has had in the series.

Andre Burakovsky carried from Washington ice to just past the Carolina line, with two defensemen back for the Canes and with Aho in hot pursuit. But Carolina's sort out wasn't strong; and Brett Connolly managed to slip away, finding enough time and space above the paint to roof a wrist shot past Petr Mrazek, largely because Aho took a circuitous route in coverage.

Aho redeemed himself early in the second period, stripping Jonas Siegenthaler behind the Washington net and feeding Teuvo Teravainen in front for the tying tally.

Maybe it's been the match-ups, maybe it's been the ice quality, and maybe it's been the crowds. But for whatever reason, the road team has not been able to win in this series.

Video: Postgame Locker Room | April 22

Crooked Road - Washington tied an NHL record with 10 road wins during the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs, going 10-3 on the road and clinching all four postseason series away from home.

The Caps' road run in 2019 is off to an inauspicious start. Washington lost all three games played in Carolina in the first round, and the Caps were outscored 12-3 in the process. Ovechkin scored two of the three goals, and had a third one disallowed.

Sin City - Caps forward Chandler Stephenson set a franchise record in 2018-19, playing in 64 regular season games without taking a single penalty. In doing so, he obliterated the previous standard set in 2011-12 when Keith Aucoin skated in 27 games for Washington without going to the penalty box.

Stephenson's run of good behavior came to an end in the third period of Monday's Game 6 when he was sent to the box for tripping Carolina's Saku Maenalanen. Monday was Stephenson's 25th birthday, and he went to the box for the first time in nearly a year. His last prior transgression was on May 3, 2018, in Game 4 of the Caps' second-round series against Pittsburgh.

Stephenson now has 10 career PIM in 144 regular season games and 10 PIM in 29 career playoff contests.

By The Numbers - John Carlson led the Caps with 25:18 in ice time … Carlson and Evgeny Kuznetsov led the Caps with four shots on net each, and those two and Ovechkin led the way with five shot attempts each. Washington only had 38 shot attempts for the entire game, and that trio accounted for nearly 40 percent of them … Tom Wilson led the Caps with nine hits … Washington had five players with at least five hits in the game; Dmitry Orlov and Carl Hagelin had six each while Ovechkin and Devante Smith-Pelly each had five … Siegenthaler led Washington with three blocked shots.

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