While it's true that defense wins championships, Washington just wants to use it to reach the playoffs.
It took 43 saves from Tomas Vokoun
and 25 more blocks from the defense, but Washington won its third straight overall – and seventh in a row at home – by beating the Carolina Hurricanes
2-1 on Sunday.
Rookie defenseman Dmitry Orlov
gave Washington the game-winner at 1:12 of the third period when he scored his first career goal. Jason Chimera
shoved the puck into the low slot, and Orlov tipped it toward Cam Ward
. The goalie made the initial save, but Orlov stuffed the rebound between the left post and Cam pad to break a 1-1 tie.
"I was a little bit worried about it, sort of anxious. I was waiting for this moment to come," Orlov said through an interpreter. "It finally came tonight and I'm just extremely happy."
also scored for Washington (24-17-2), which moved into a tie with Florida for the top spot in the Southeast Division with 50 points.
"It was a big game here tonight; we knew it was," Capitals coach Dale Hunter said. "We talked about it -- to get back, the top of the standings in our division. It's an important win for us."
The loss snapped a rare winning streak for Carolina (16-24-7), which had won two in a row to climb out of the division basement. Coming off a 4-2 win against Boston on Saturday, Carolina managed only one goal when Jussi Jokinen
broke a 25-game scoreless streak with his fifth of the season.
The lack of goals wasn't for a lack of effort -- the 'Canes outshot Washington 44-24 and had 82 attempted shots to just 38 for the Caps.
"We said before the game we're not going to make excuses about it, and we've got to find a way to win," Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. "The guys played hard; they came up short. But I think they emptied the tank. It's what we asked them to do. The next step is to find a way to win it."
Following a quiet first period in which Carolina outshot the Caps 13-4, Ward stoned Joel Ward
's point-blank opportunity with his left arm early in the second. Minutes later, Brooks Laich
appeared to have solved Ward when his shot trickled into the net, but the goal was disallowed after video review showed Laich had interfered with Ward during the play.
At 16:57, Semin finally broke the scoreless tie. The Russian skated to the top of the right circle and, when given room to shoot by defenseman Derek Joslin
, fired it high past Ward for his 11th of the season.
Jokinen tied it with 17 seconds left in the period. A long shot left Vokoun sprawled, and though he stopped Alexei Ponikarovsky
on the rebound, the puck caromed in front for Jokinen to finish into an open net.
The ‘Canes kept pelting Vokoun's net all game, and outshot the Caps 18-11 in the final period. Their best chance to equalize came when Tuomo Ruutu
pinged his shot off the post midway through the period.
"They threw a lot of rubber at (Vokoun)," Hunter said, "and he had to be sharp."
Washington is 12-9-1 since Hunter took over the reins from Bruce Boudreau, and his defense-minded approach has the Caps poised for a late-season run.
"Things can change here," Vokoun said. "Just like we were 7-0 [to start the season] and things went bad. You have to play consistently through the season to be successful, and you're going to have ups and downs, but I still believe we're a very good team and we can turn things around. Maybe the struggles were the best thing for us to realize what we needed to do.
"In past years, they were cruising through the regular season and never got through the challenge (of the playoffs). This year it looks like it's going to be a fight for the playoffs until the end, and it's almost like those teams who are fighting for a long time, they're ready for the playoffs."