For most of the night at Verizon Center, if you didn't know which team had the most points in the league and which had the least, you would have had a difficult time telling.
But something—maybe even a commercial break video played a period earlier than normal —finally woke up the Washington Capitals as they rebounded from a 2-0 deficit to take a lead, give it back up late, and eventually beat the Carolina Hurricanes in overtime 4-3.
"Whoever is doing the videoboard did the 'Unleash the Fury' video in the second period and it got the crowd into it, which was a tremendous thing," coach Bruce Boudreau told the media after the game. "We were dead emotionally. And that's what happens when you play a lot of games."
Mike Green played a very uneven game, but he took a pass from Nicklas Backstrom 1:16 into overtime in the high slot and lifted a wrist shot past Cam Ward, who did everything he could Friday night to help the struggling Canes earn a point on the road against the beasts of the East.
Green was on the ice for six of the seven goals scored in the contest, and his admitted poor play helped Carolina (7-18-6) score their goals. He made a costly turnover while Washington was on a third period power play, leading to Tim Gleason's game-tying goal against Jose Theodore (16 saves), who did not have a great game himself.
"He didn't look comfortable on a lot of shots, let's just put it that way," Boudreau said dryly.
Gleason missed a chunk of the game after taking a puck in the face early on by Alex Ovechkin (two assists), needing a reported 30 stitches to close up the gash on his face. He returned wearing a full face shield. Gleason was the player last week Ovechkin took his kneeing major penalty against, which earned him a two-game suspension.
But for Green, netting the game-winner made all the difference.
"I got lucky there and was just excited it went in," Green said. "I didn't have a great game, so it's a great feeling."
"He was the first one that came up to me after the game and apologized," Boudreau said of Green. "I said no need to apologize, you know? Really good players, if they're having a bad game, still have a tendency to step up and be in the limelight at some point on a positive note."
After outshooting Carolina 14-4 in the first period, but trailing on the scoresheet 2-0, Alexander Semin decided to put the team on his shoulders in the second period. The enigmatic winger cut the deficit in half with a nifty wrist shot that went through defenseman Brett Carson and over Ward's shoulder.
Then, on a semi-breakaway, Semin fended off the defender and got off a soft shot that Ward batted with his blocker, but it went right back to Semin, who poked it past the sprawled goaltender with 0.6 seconds remaining in the frame.
Tomas Fleischmann potted his 11th of the season early in the third, and the Caps were looking like they might walk away from the Canes at that point, but Jay Harrison pulled a loose puck off the goal line, keeping it a one goal game until Gleason scored his shorty.
So the Caps, with the best record in hockey, narrowly escaped tripping over Carolina, who own the worst record. It gives Washington an 8-0-0 record against their Southeast Conference foes this season, a dominant performance thus far in a division ripe for the picking right now.
But the effort, especially early, might not have been enough against a team that could finish a shot.
Even though the Caps out shot Carolina 14-4 in the first period (and 40-19 overall), the Canes easily could have had four or five goals, chased Theodore early, and made life miserable for a team that has to turn right around and get on a plane for Toronto immediately after the game.
The Caps dodged that bullet, however, and hold onto the mantle of best record in hockey at 20-6-6, and now have a three point lead in the conference.