WASHINGTON - Andrei Svechnikov scored a pair of third-period goals, but the Carolina Hurricanes were edged by the Washington Capitals, 4-2, in Game 1.
The Capitals scored a trio of goals in the first period, including two on the power play, and held off the Canes' vigorous final push.
Here are five takeaways from Game 1.
1. Canes Start Strong, but Caps Capitalize
For all the playoff inexperience on the Hurricanes' roster - the team had 10 players making their postseason debuts - they didn't seem out of place against the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Head coach Rod Brind'Amour mused about the start of the game earlier in the day: "I'm sure there will be a little bit of a feeling out process for our guys. I just hope it doesn't take too long."
It certainly didn't, but things unfortunately didn't go the Canes' way. They held the Capitals without a shot on goal through the first 10 minutes of the game, the first recorded shot a dribbler that Petr Mrazek covered up. But, then Nicklas Backstrom walked in and sniped a wrist shot that beat Mrazek clean on the glove side.
Video: CAR Recap: Comeback falls short in Game 1 loss
The Capitals added two goals on their first two power plays of the game - Backstrom scored his second of the game alongside the net off a pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov, and then Alex Ovechkin jumped on a loose puck in the slot after sending two straight wrist shots wide of the net - to stretch their lead to 3-0 in the first.
"It was a strong first period, but everything went their way," Jordan Staal said.
"I thought we came out pretty good. I liked our first period, but it's just unfortunate we got down three. I thought we started the first 10 minutes way better than I thought it was going to be," Brind'Amour said. "It's a tough game because we did a lot of good things."
2. Making Svech Happen
At just 19 years old, Andrei Svechnikov is making himself known on hockey's biggest stage.
Svechnikov, the fourth player in franchise history to play in the postseason before his 20th birthday (which isn't until March 26, 2020, by the way), scored two goals in the third period to become just the second teenager in franchise history to record a postseason point.
Svechnikov got the Canes on the board just over five minutes into the third period, as he put his shoulder down to skate around John Carlson and go from his backhand to his forehand to beat Braden Holtby.
Video: CAR@WSH, Gm1: Svechnikov buries first playoff goal
About two-and-a-half minutes later, Lucas Wallmark fed Svechnikov with a beautiful slap pass across the zone, and Svechnikov one-timed it home to bring his team within a goal.
"It means a lot to me [to score], but we lost the game," Svechnikov said.
Video: CAR@WSH, Gm1: Svechnikov rips home one-timer
"A couple of really nice goals by Svech. We're going to need everyone if we want to win. He was a big part of tonight's game getting us back in it," Staal said. "A big game by him."
Svechnikov finished the night with his two markers, three shots and one hit in 13:37 of ice time.
"He was able to get us back in the game," Brind'Amour said. "It was good on him, and he didn't look out of place, especially in the third. He took a big step, in my opinion."
3. The Wrong Side of the Special Teams Battle
The story in this game boils down a simple statistic: The Capitals were 2-for-4 on their power play, while the Hurricanes were 0-for-3.
That was the simple difference.
"That was the biggest problem for us," Svechnikov said.
"Our special teams in general has to be better. Both PK and power play weren't good enough," Staal said. "Special teams have to be better if we're going to win some games."
The Caps took two penalties in the final nine minutes of the game when the Canes were down just a goal, but they couldn't connect to draw the score even.
"It's a tough game because we did a lot of good things, but the special teams got us," Brind'Amour said. "That's pretty much the whole story in that game."
4. Engage Playoff Physicality
There's nothing quite like playoff hockey. Justin Williams said Thursday morning that "it's everything it's cracked up to be."
The physicality is one aspect of the game that takes a leap from Game 82 of the regular season to Game 1 of the postseason, and that was evident from the drop of the puck.
Micheal Ferland was banging any bodies in his field of vision. He racked up four hits before the game was even five minutes old. The Canes might not be the most physical team, but they handled the ramp up in physicality rather well. They weren't overmatched and now they know exactly what to expect in that aspect of the game moving forward.
5. Building Blocks for Game 2
The Hurricanes may have played a good first two periods, but playing well and then seeing it reflected on the scoreboard in the third period is something the team can build on heading into Game 2.
It was known that this was a resilient bunch - just look at how they fought back into playoff positioning in the second half of the season - and for that to come to the forefront down three goals in the third period is encouraging.
"We just never give up, and we're looking forward to the next game," Svechnikov said.
Mrazek was a big reason why the Hurricanes remained within striking distance in the third period. He made a pair of breakaway stops on Nic Dowd and Carl Hagelin, as the Canes opened the ice up early to try to dent the scoreboard.
Video: CAR@WSH, Gm1: Mrazek shuts down Dowd on breakaway
"Give the guys credit," Staal said. "We did a good job of bouncing back, working and playing our game. We made it a close one."
"Guys are pretty disappointed. They played hard. Certainly don't fault that," Brind'Amour said. "It's a positive for me that we weren't our best and still had a chance to win."
A seven-game series isn't decided in a single game. It's a race to four that has just begun.
"It's not just one game. It's not just about tonight," Williams said Thursday morning. "It's about the process of the series. That's what I relish, and that's what I look forward to."
"We've got to take some time, come back tomorrow, refresh the batteries and look at how we can get a little better to see if we can win a game here. That's the goal," Brind'Amour said after the game. "The emotions are a little tough right now … but we'll be back."
Game 2 is a Saturday matinee slated for 3 p.m. in The District.