Nic Dowd’s slight redirection led to the winning goal as the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals clinched a playoff spot with a 3-2 victory against the host Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night in Raleigh, N.C.
Dowd’s seventh goal of the season came with 4:56 remaining when defenseman Nick Jensen delivered the puck from outside the right circle. Dowd put his stick on the puck, which slid between goalie Curtis McElhinney’s pads.
Washington wrapped up an Eastern Conference playoff spot and remains in the lead in the Metropolitan Division.
Brett Connolly and Jakub Vrana also scored for the Capitals, who began a three-game road trip.
The outcome was frustrating for the Hurricanes, who are trying to at least keep a spot as a wild-card team for the playoffs.
Carolina lost consecutive games in regulation for the first time since Jan. 15 and 18. The teams also met Tuesday night, with the Capitals winning 4-1 in Washington.
After Dowd’s goal, Carolina went on a power play for the first time in more than 125 minutes — a span that covered three games.
Nino Niederreiter and Warren Foegele scored for Carolina, which led 2-1 after two periods.
Capitals goalie Braden Holtby made 24 saves, including 10 in the third period.
McElhinney finished with 17 stops.
Niederreiter scored on the game’s sixth shot, reaching back to slap in the puck after he had slid past the goal mouth.
The Capitals scored 42 seconds later on Connolly’s goal as he beat the defense and had an uncontested shot on McElhinney.
Foegele made a 1-on-1 move around Jensen before putting the puck past Holtby. It was Foegele’s eighth goal of the season, but his first since Feb. 8.
Vrana tied the game with his 23rd goal, just 1:35 into the third period.
Carolina captain Justin Williams recorded an assist on Niederreiter’s goal, giving him 50 points this season. Williams, 37, is the oldest player in the NHL with at least 50 points this season.
—Field Level Media