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Capitals sneak past Hurricanes on Fehr's late goal

by Kurt Dusterberg

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Washington Capitals figured they would need to play a close, tight-checking road game to have a chance to defeat the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday. That's exactly how things played out.

Eric Fehr forced a turnover in the high slot, then lifted a shot over Anton Khudobin's glove with 4:02 remaining to give the Capitals a 2-1 win against the Hurricanes at PNC Arena.

"Carolina checked really well," Washington coach Barry Trotz said. "They hustle and you're always under pressure, so you have to grind it out."

Jay Beagle gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead 2:19 into the first period. Jason Chimera pressed defenseman Michal Jordan into a turnover in Carolina's offensive zone, and then launched a shot that trickled out of Khudobin's glove. Beagle drove the slot and jabbed the puck into an open net for his third goal of the season.

"I actually knew coming into the zone that I was a little bit late," Beagle said. "You never know where it's going to come out but I knew I needed to stab at it to have a chance for it to go in."

The Capitals (11-10-4) are 10-1-1 when scoring first this season. They settled in and played a strong second period that featured a few good scoring chances. Khudobin had to fight off Joel Ward's redirect in the slot and absorb shots in close by Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson.

"We had some great looks [like] Backstrom there in the slot," Trotz said. "We had some movement, we had a lot of traffic [and shots] their goaltender didn't even see."

Carolina forward Alexander Semin took a pass from Jay Harrison in the slot and sent a backhand over Capitals goalie Braden Holtby's shoulder to tie the game at 3:19 of the third period. The goal was Semin’s first of the season and his 500th NHL point.

The Washington defense got a little loose in the moments after the tying goal, but that's when Holtby made the best of his 29 saves. Zach Boychuk stole a puck in the corner and set up Elias Lindholm for a wrist shot from the slot, but Holtby pushed from left to right to turn it away.

"He was exceptional after they scored the goal," Trotz said. "We had that lull that we've been talking about, and he made the outstanding save. Once he made that save, we sort of regrouped and went to work."

Chimera agreed that Holtby's save was the difference.

"That was one of the best saves we've seen in a long time, the stretch across," Chimera said. "It kept us in the game."

Holtby's heroics helped settle the Capitals and allowed them to connect for the game-winner. Fehr poked the puck away from Riley Nash coming out of the Hurricanes zone, then got behind the Carolina defense and finished his chance.

"I saw the guy cutting through the middle and I just wanted to get a stick on it and push it down," Fehr said. "I got into an area where I could get it and cut the [defenseman] off, and I was kind of 1-on-1 with the goalie."

The turnover was costly for the Hurricanes (8-14-3), who are fighting to stay in Stanley Cup Playoff contention.

"[We've] got to get a point here in Raleigh," Carolina coach Bill Peters said. "Late in the game, you've got to manage the puck, you've got to be aware. It's the best league in the world for a reason. You've got to think at a high level and you've got to play at a high level."

Peters has not expressed much disappointment with the Hurricanes in his first season as coach. But with points slipping away, he was clear that they need more complete efforts.

"These are young guys," he said. "Our personnel is fine. We've got to coach them up. I didn't like our second [period] at all. Did we push for 60 minutes here at home? Probably not."

The Hurricanes pulled Khudobin for an extra attacker with less than three minutes remaining. Carolina pressured the Washington net, but the Capitals were able to keep the Hurricanes at bay. Brooks Orpik blocked Semin's shot from the slot with one minute remaining.

"It's great for the confidence, and it makes for a happy plane ride," Fehr said. "That's the kind of stuff that can really build into big streaks. Here's hoping we can get one started."

The Capitals play the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Saturday. The Hurricanes continue a five-game homestand against the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday.

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