The Carolina Hurricanes aren't ready to count the Washington Capitals out of the Southeast Division race just yet. But a few more performances like their 4-0 road victory Tuesday night might do the job.
Justin Peters stopped 26 shots for his second career shutout, and the Hurricanes won the opener of a home-and-home series to move 10 points ahead of the Capitals in the division standings.
"You can't take anything for granted," Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. "That was one of our strongest 60-minute performances this year, and in a big game, that's great. We've done a really good job staying focused."
Peters and Dan Ellis are splitting time in goal with Cam Ward sidelined by a knee injury. Peters, a 26-year-old who's bounced between the Hurricanes and the minors for a couple of seasons, is glad to get the chance to show what he can do on an extended basis.
"It's a lot of fun just to get an opportunity to play in this League, and every time I get an opportunity I want to try and take advantage of it," he said. "We played an awesome game tonight as a team right from the drop of the puck, right to the last buzzer. That was a total group effort tonight and a huge confidence booster for us."
Carolina's Riley Nash, who came into the game with one goal this season, scored twice in the second period for the Hurricanes, who improved to 15-9-1 and are first in the Southeast. Joe Corvo scored in the first period, and Pat Dwyer hit the empty net for a shorthanded goal with 1:21 remaining.
Washington lost its third in a row and fell to 10-14-1, including 7-7-0 at Verizon Center. The teams meet again Thursday night in Raleigh, N.C.
The Capitals showed little spark for most of the night.
"If you're going to hunt that playoff spot, you can't play like this," center Nicklas Backstrom said. "We've got to be better than that.
"Tonight was 60 minutes of just terrible effort from us. I don't know what it is, but we for sure need to talk about it."
Peters was sharp when he had to be. He made a pad save on Marcus Johansson in the second period and later denied Troy Brouwer on a shorthanded breakaway. Peters' only previous shutout also came against the Capitals, a 5-0 win on Feb. 20, 2012.
"He was unbelievable," Nash said. "He's had three, I think, really good starts for us now. Ever since Ward went down, we really needed that."
Washington's Braden Holtby finished with 32 saves, but he was at fault on Corvo's goal 3:55 into the game. The veteran defenseman had the puck behind the net and backhanded it toward Holtby, who wasn't quite set. The puck hit the back of the goaltender's mask and caromed into the net for Corvo's fourth of the season.
Nash made it 3-0 with his two goals in the second period. The first was a deflection of Jay Harrison's shot at 5:55. The second, at 18:26, came after Dwyer hustled to avoid an icing and got the puck to Nash, coming late down the slot, for a 10-footer Holtby had no chance on.
Dwyer's empty-netter after the Capitals pulled Holtby during a late power play completed the scoring.
Just a few days ago, things were getting brighter in Washington -- the Capitals had won three in a row and five or six. But they lost to the New York Islanders and New York Rangers over the weekend; the loss to the Hurricanes was their third defeat in four days.
"We were on a pretty good roll there and then we lose three in a row and we feel like we are right back to where we were," forward Eric Fehr said. "We've just go to work that much harder to get back in the division, and obviously it starts in two days against the same team. We've just got to find a way to score a goal early on them. They are a different team when they are coming from behind, and we couldn't expose that today."
Material from team media was used in this report