RBC CENTER/ RALEIGHCaniac Nation couldn’t take another five-goal third period meltdown, and thankfully the ‘Canes provided an alternative – they lost this one the old-fashioned way. 39 shots on goal and a very late – like, 14 seconds left in the game late – Matt Cullen comeback bid didn’t pan out and the ‘Canes dropped their fifth in a row.

The entire game was a sideshow to the drama that unfolded in the first period, which saw Alex Ovechkin deliver an illegal blow and injure himself in the process. But while the Capitals recovered from the loss of their unequivocal leader, Carolina couldn’t muster enough to win after losing underrated defenseman Joe Corvo to injury.

***UPDATE: The ‘Canes announced this morning that Corvo will miss 8-10 weeks after undergoing surgery. He has been placed on injured reserve.***

Corvo got the scoring started four and a half minutes in on the power play when he scooped up a Tuomo Ruutu rebound and found a way around Jose Theodore.

After that, Carolina players started dropping like flies. Less than a minute after his goal, Corvo sidestepped an innocent looking hit in front of his own bench from Washington’s Karl Alzner. But as Alzner skated away, Corvo clutched the back of his leg as Alzner’s skate cut it. He was helped back to the locker room, almost having to be carried by six Carolina trainers.

Corvo was taken to the hospital immediately to get the cut closed. Hopefully it isn’t too serious – the ‘Canes have had more than enough deep lacerations for one autumn.

Maurice knew just about as much as everyone else after the game, though he said it was a ‘significant” injury.

‘He went to the hospital. He’s stable, he’s fine,” Mo said. ‘We won’t know the extent of the injury until the doctor looks at it and sees how deep it is and what [the blade] caught.”

It didn’t take the Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom connection long to set up the tying goal. Those two put on a clinic along the boards and Ovechkin fed Backstrom at the crease for his fifth of the year.

League superstar Ovechkin left the game and didn’t return when he appeared to stick out his leg and catch a passing Tim Gleason, who landed hard on his face.

‘It was not a very smart play by Ovechkin,” Brandon Sutter said. ‘But it’s part of the game.”

Ovechkin, who has a history of this sort of rough play and has already been tossed from a game once this season, received a five minute major for kneeing and a game misconduct. A hard knee can end a player’s career, and it’s something the NHL can’t ignore, hard as it may try, even when its superstars are involved. Ovechkin had to be helped off the ice as well, visibly in pain. I know the play was dirty, but don’t boo an injured player, guys – it’s just not nice.

Let’s be serious, though. Ovechkin is not going to be suspended for that hit, especially if he’s hurt. In the real world, if you do something foolish and wind up injured, it’s your own fault. If you’re Alex Ovechkin and do anything short of braining another player or bringing an M-16 onto the ice, they’re going to say, ‘damage done, guys! See, he’s really sorry. And we have millions of dollars in revenue and advertising tied up in him…I mean, what?” No, Ovechkin might get a fine. But probably not even that.

Gleason wasn’t long for the locker room and was back manning the point within the span of Ovechkin’s penalty, which the ‘Canes couldn’t do anything with. But Corvo, who leads the ‘Canes in ice time and is third in the NHL in that category, will be sorely missed for however long he’s out.

‘Both guys are good parts of this team,” Michael Leighton said. ‘We were glad to see Gleason come back, and hopefully Corvo’s all right.”

The ‘Canes can’t even concentrate on keeping the puck out of their own net without all the hoopla surrounding the first period, and seconds after the penalty expired Eric Fehr went off on a two-on-one with Backstrom and the former scored easily on a half-empty net.

Jussi Jokinen was robbed by Theodore during a penalty to Brooks Laich in the second period when the goalie flashed out his glove while stretched on the ground. The ‘Canes got another crack at it when Tomas Fleischmann was whistled for interference, giving Carolina 17 seconds of 5-on-3. They hit the post twice and the Washington defense stood tall for the rest of it, forcing the ‘Canes to stay along the perimeter.

Andrew Alberts showed Mathieu Perreault know how it’s done street legal style when he delivered a hard check against the boards that got a rise out of the crowd. The Caps almost scored afterward, but…let’s just keep that on the down low.

Backstrom got his second of the game when he faked out Leighton, who was way out of the net, with a beautiful – albeit uncontested – goal-scorer’s goal. He looked as though he lost the puck, then spin-o’-rama-ed it and made every player in red on the ice look silly. Especially Leighton, who fell in his haste to get back.

‘I was coming across and thinking the guy was going to shoot, but he did a spin-o’-rama,” Leighton said. ‘I tried to get back and lost my edge and he had an open net. That was not a goal I want to give up. If they’re going to score you want to make them earn it, and that was a pretty easy goal.”

The penalties in the third period came so rapidly I couldn’t type them up, but neither team scored. Staal got into the thick of things when he picked a mostly verbal mini-fight with Tyler Sloan and took a seat. Tim Gleason picked up a 10-minute misconduct for being the third man into the scrum, leaving the ‘Canes with four defensemen in the waning minutes.

Carolina generated plenty of chances, but Theodore stood on his head to preserve the lead. Matt Cullen tattooed one from the point past Theodore with Leighton pulled, but there wasn’t enough time left to try for another. The ‘Canes fell, 3-2.

The team got good news this morning when Cam Ward resumed on-ice practice for the first time since he himself got some unwanted battle scars resulting from a wayward skate. It’s highly doubtful that his return will help the ‘Canes with the rate they’re going down, but I’m sure no one will mind having him back.

The good news for Carolina is that it has almost a week to rest and recuperate. The team doesn’t play again until Saturday, when it will meet the Vancouver Canucks.

And in spite of the final tally tonight, Leighton said he thought the team played well. Of course, that’s a relative term in Carolina these days.

‘It was a pretty good game,” Leighton said. ‘I don’t think we’re too disappointed with our effort. I’m proud of the way we played. We easily could have gotten two goals and won the game.”