WASHINGTON - The Carolina Hurricanes topped the Washington Capitals 4-1 to begin a three-game preseason road trip.
In his first trip back to The District, Justin Williams scored a power-play goal. Trevor Carrick, Julien Gauthier and Justin Faulk (empty net) also found the back of the net and Cam Ward made 22 saves for the Canes, who are an unblemished 3-0 on the road in the exhibition season.
"I thought we got better as we went along. I thought we built a game, and I thought our third period was our best period," head coach Bill Peters said. "I thought our young guys settled down, started to play and show what they're all about in the third."
Here are five takeaways from tonight's game.
Williams now has two power-play goals in as many preseason games. The Hurricanes know what they have in Williams, and an asset on the man advantage is one of those things.
"Well, there's been a lot of [power plays], so that's worked. We're shooting pucks. We're still getting a feel for everyone," Williams said. "Roddy has given us some good input and some good strategies to use. We've been able to break in nicely and I feel we've had a lot of good opportunities."
"He's going to be an asset in all areas," Peters said. "He's a guy who knows how to play. He makes a lot of subtle little plays 5-on-5, he's good on the bench and good in the room and you know what he's all about."
"He's a special player. He just doesn't miss a beat," Ward said. "He's going to be such a big help to our team, not only on the ice but in the locker room too. We certainly are happy that he's back with us."
Video: CAR@WSH: Williams strikes on the power play
Williams opened the scoring at the 10:52 mark of the first period, as the 35-year-old veteran was parked alongside the net in a perfect spot to hammer home what looked to be a subtle tap-pass from Jordan Staal outmuscling defenders in the slot.
"I think so. You never know with him. He's a bull in there," Williams said of Staal. "He gets his stick on everything, and when he wants the puck he takes it."
Ward played a full game in net tonight, a first for the team's goaltenders this preseason, and he was very sharp. Ward made 22 saves on 23 shots and was instrumental in keeping the score tied at one before his team pulled away. Ward had a number of impressive sequences in the second period, including a left pad stop on the ever-dangerous Alex Ovechkin.
Video: CAR@WSH: Ward denies Ovechkin off a turnover
"When it was 1-1 he made a couple of big saves and we were able to roll after that," Williams said. "You need everybody, and he was good."
"We turned some pucks over. It was his second game, and it was good to get him all 60 minutes," Peters said. "I think everyone, if you look at our games and we've played four times now, the first game there is a little bit of rust being knocked off, the second game everybody is better and then the third game guys should be hitting their stride."
This marked Ward's second preseason game after he played 40 minutes against Tampa Bay at home on Wednesday.
"Today was much better. I look at my first game, and it was kind of a mixed bag. It's been awhile since we've all played a game, and it certainly showed in my first outing," Ward said. "Today I felt I got more comfortable as the game went along and was able to build some confidence with some big saves in the second period. It's definitely a step in the right direction."
The defensive pairing of Carrick and Klas Dahlbeck was a physical presence on the ice tonight. That's an element that the Canes' game has been somewhat missing in the last few seasons. The two were involved in a pair of post-whistle scrums - a few kind hellos, I imagine - neither of which resulted in penalties for either side. This coming a game after Haydn Fleury jumped in to challenge a Tampa Bay opponent who boarded Derek Ryan. Team toughness, it seems, has been elevated.
"We've got a good group of D in camp and we've got good young ones coming, so it's very competitive at that position," Peters said. "Dahly was here, in and out of the lineup last year, so he knows where he's at. He had a good summer and has gotten off to a good start in training camp. Trevor is in a similar situation. He's spent two full years in the American Hockey League and wants to take a step. He's played well in both his games. He had two points again here tonight. He played hard. He plays with some bite."
Video: CAR@WSH: Carrick launches a top-shelf rocket
Carrick's two-point night included a goal in the second period, as he let a shot rip from the top of the near circle and tucked it high corner, right underneath the bar.
Julien Gauthier is turning pro this season, and he made a professional scoring move in the third period to give the Hurricanes a two-goal lead. Gathering the puck in the neutral zone, Gauthier put the shoulder down to scoot past Matt Niskanen and then let a snap wrister go that blazed a trail over the reaching glove of Philipp Grubauer and to the back of the net.
Video: CAR@WSH: Gauthier whips one by Grubauer
"That's what the Goat does. He's a strong guy. He's good on his skates and has great balance," Peters said. "He won a 1-on-1 battle in the neutral zone and then he's in all alone with the goaltender, and he's got the ability to finish."
It's been just over a week since the Hurricanes got on the ice as a team to begin their 2017 training camp. So far, so good.
"It's going real well. We're real excited and pleased with the guys we have in this locker room, including all the prospects," Ward said. "I think the young guys have really stepped in and are pushing to get noticed. I think organizationally our depth is so strong now. There's a lot of guys fighting for jobs."
"We feel we have a great team, and we're going to strive to be a great team," Williams said. "We're trending in the right direction, and that's all we can ask for."
The Hurricanes look to remain perfect on the road in the preseason when they travel to Edmonton to take on the Oilers on Monday night.