Preseason Recap: Canes Fall in Washington
McGinn, Kuokkanen tally goals in third periodby Michael Smith @MSmithCanes / CarolinaHurricanes.com
WASHINGTON - The Carolina Hurricanes were edged by the Washington Capitals by a score of 3-2 on Saturday night in The District.
Down 3-0 heading into the third period, the Canes worked their way back into the exhibition contest with goals from Brock McGinn and Janne Kuokkanen.
Here are five takeaways from the Canes' third preseason game.
1. Preseason Growing Pains
We've discussed previously how meaningless results are in the preseason - but, for those keeping tabs, this was the first regulation preseason loss under head coach Rod Brind'Amour (7-1-1).
So, what happens when the process is a bit concerning, even when the team isn't rife with veterans?
"It was a pretty disgusting game, to be honest with you. I don't even care about the score," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "We didn't play the way we've been practicing all week. I didn't know what we were watching. That's the hard part."
For some fringe players, this could have been a make or break performance.
"We needed to get some answers," Brind'Amour said. "For some guys, it was a disappointing game in a lot of ways. We move on. A couple more days of practice, and then we'll have another game, still another look game for people."
2. Climbing Back in the Third
The Hurricanes made a game of it in the third period with goals from Brock McGinn and Janne Kuokkanen.
"We just started playing with speed and getting pucks behind their net," McGinn said. "You can't just play 13 minutes in a game and win. You've got to play a full 60. We'll learn and go into practice and try to build on things we need to work on here."
McGinn, Public Enemy No. 1 at Capital One Arena, got the Canes on the board first in the building where he scored the biggest goal of his career about five months prior. Aided by a turnover down low, McGinn banged in a loose puck at the top of the crease.
Later in the third, Jake Bean's point shot bounced off the end glass, and Kuokkanen tracked down the rebound. Before the puck hit the ice, Kuokkanen backhanded it past Ilya Samsonov.
Video: CAR@WSH: Kuokkanen backhands in carom off the boards
"We were a little more tenacious on the puck in the third," Brind'Amour said.
3. Gauthier Makes an Impact - Again
Julien Gauthier, who dressed in his third straight exhibition game, continues to draw praise for his performance.
He led Canes forwards with 17:06 of ice time and recorded two shots on goal, four hits and a block. Though he didn't get credit for an assist, he created the scoring opportunity that led to McGinn's goal, as he got the puck deep along the far boards, fought through a defender and then forced a turnover behind the net.
Video: CAR@WSH: McGinn puts home his own rebound
"He's big, he's strong and he's fast," McGinn said of his linemate. "He took away their time and space, and they had to force a play. … He's a big, strong kid, and he'll only get better in time."
Gauthier nearly netted a breakaway goal in the second period when he tried to slip a backhand past Samsonov, but the Caps' goalie stood strong with his right pad. The Canes' 21st overall pick from 2016 made his physical presence felt in the first period when he shouldered an unsuspecting Shane Gersich in open ice.
"He was probably the one guy who actually looked like there was something going on," Brind'Amour said. "Good for him. He's played hard in these games, and that's why we keep giving him opportunities."
Earn it? Gauthier is making a strong case.
"He's probably been our best player," Brind'Amour said. "Of the guys we've been looking at, he's probably done the most."
4. Assessing the Goaltending
The Hurricanes' preseason shutout streak ended at 126:44, when Brett Leason capitalized on a turnover to give the Capitals a 1-0 lead.
Another turnover led to Brian Pinho extending the Capitals lead to two, so it's tough to pin either of those goals on Anton Forsberg, who faced 10 shots in the first 29:12 of game time.
"In the first two periods, we were turning it over at both blue lines, and that's how they were getting their opportunities," McGinn said.
James Reimer played the balance of the game and made nine saves on 10 shots, his one goal against coming as the Canes were shorthanded.
The Canes assigned goaltenders Callum Booth and Jeremy Helvig to Charlotte this evening, and four goaltenders still remain in camp. Who will join Petr Mrazek in the Canes' locker room come the beginning of October? That's a competition to watch in the next week.
5. New Helmet Rule
Among a host of rule changes for the 2019-20 season is a new stipulation regarding helmets. It reads as follows:
"A Player on the ice whose helmet comes off during play must (a) exit the playing surface, or (b) retrieve and replace his helmet properly on his head (with or without his chin strap fastened). A Player who is making a play on the puck or who is in position to make an immediate play on the puck at the time his helmet comes off, shall be given a reasonable opportunity to complete the play before either exiting the ice or retrieving and replacing his helmet. Failure to comply with the above will result in a minor penalty being assessed on the offending player."
Late in the second period, Roland McKeown's helmet popped off in the defensive zone. He continued to play without it; he did not immediately exit the playing surface (he was, after all, in his own zone) and did not make an effort to retrieve his helmet. I thought it would have been called a penalty, but there does seem to be a sizeable gray area with the rule.
"It's not black and white. The refs give you an opportunity to finish the play out, and then you have to get to the bench or his helmet," Brind'Amour said. "He probably went a little longer than he was supposed to, but I think they gave him a little break there. It's not automatic; you've got to let the play finish out."
The Canes head to Nashville on Wednesday for a televised match-up with the Predators.