The Hurricanes held a one-goal lead off a 3-on-1 Tuomo Ruutu goal with three minutes left in the game, and was assured of at least a point against the team that swiped the division lead out from under the ‘Canes last season. Alexander Semin (most unfortunate name in all of hockey? Quite possibly. And if you haven’t read his scathing criticism of superstar Sidney Crosby, check it out. Doesn’t he know that no one criticizes Crosby and lives to tell the tale?) scored with three minutes remaining to tie it up. Although the Hurricanes had been defensively sound throughout the game, they allowed Semin to sneak in with 11 seconds remaining and the left winger blasted a shot past Cam Ward. ‘Cane killer Alexander Ovechkin notched three assists, and Washington closed the gap on the division lead by two points. Washington has a game in hand.

Serving as the cherry on top of a devastating night, Semin’s follow-through struck Rod Brind’Amour in the face, and the captain limped off the ice, pouring blood. The play was entirely legal, and had no effect on the game-winning tally. The banged-up Brind’Amour will have to make a quick recovery and possibly find a face shield in order to log his customary 20-plus minutes against the Ottawa Senators tomorrow night.

This sudden collapse would not be so worrisome if the same thing had not happened a week ago against Edmonton, in which the Hurricanes surrendered another late lead. The Washington game proved to be a polar opposite of Tuesday night’s rematch against Toronto, in which the Hurricanes played a near-perfect first period and held on against an explosive Toronto offense to win in overtime. Aside from the recently-returned Scott Walker’s early goal, the ‘Canes failed to assert themselves in the first period, and instead relied on another strong game by their grinders. Ruutu and Walker provided the offense instead of All-Star hopefuls Brind’Amour, Eric Staal, and Whitney. Brind’Amour and Staal were held without points for the second straight game.

An otherwise good effort by the Hurricanes was wasted as they fell to the pesky Capitals, the team’s strongest contender for the Southeast Division title…and that invaluable guaranteed top-3 seed. The Hurricanes will have a chance to redeem themselves tomorrow night at home, where they are 2-2, against the Ottawa Senators.