Canes celebrate all night at Verizon (USA TODAY SPORTS IMAGES)
WASHINGTON (AP) - Riley Nash scored twice, Joe Corvo put one in off the goaltender's mask, and Justin Peters got his second career shutout Tuesday night as the surging Carolina Hurricanes beat the slumping Washington Capitals 4-0, taking the first leg of a key home-and-home series between the Southeast Division rivals.
Patrick Dwyer added an empty-net goal, and Peters made 26 saves for the Hurricanes, who have won six of seven and have a 10-point lead over the Capitals, whose struggles are one of the big surprises of the lockout-shortened season. The division is essentially becoming a two-team race between Carolina and the Winnipeg Jets.
The Capitals lost their third straight - all by at least a three-goal margin. They were hoping to get back in the race with a sweep of the Hurricanes this week. Instead, the best they can do is a split when they visit Carolina on Thursday.
The Hurricanes' blue line was injury-depleted when they were shut out 3-0 by the Capitals on Feb. 26. The reverse scenario played out Tuesday, with injuries forcing Washington to use three defensemen who began the season in the minors.
Bad penalties haunted Washington in its last two losses, but all of the Hurricanes' scoring came at even strength. The first one involved a pair of former Capitals - Corvo and Alexander Semin.
Corvo was near the boards when his shot along the goal line struck goalie Braden Holtby in the back and went in. Semin, booed throughout the game by fans frustrated by his moody play during seven seasons in Washington, had the primary assist.
Semin went down twice early in the second period but stayed in the game. The first time came when he was struck by good friend Alex Ovechkin, who was taking a shot and hit Semin in the face with his stick during the follow-through.
Nash deflected Jay Harrison's shot from the edge of the left circle to make it 2-0 in the second period. Nash got his second goal later in the period after Dwyer outhustled Capitals defenseman Jeff Schultz to the puck to prevent an icing call. Nash trailed the play and was in the slot to take Dwyer's pass for the easy shot past Holtby.
Peters, who is sharing duties with Dan Ellis while Cam Ward is out with a knee injury, was on the top of his game. He made a reflex pad save on Marcus Johansson in the second period and later stymied Troy Brouwer on a short-handed breakaway.