The Hurricanes, who had not played in four days, dominated most aspects of the game. The Capitals lost at Buffalo on Wednesday and were outshot 39-10 by the Hurricanes.
Alex Ovechkin scored twice for Washington, notching his second multi-goal game in six contests. He almost had a hat trick, but his shot in the final second was blocked in front by Hurricanes defenceman Niclas Wallin.
Cam Ward relieved John Grahame in goal at the start of the third period and earned his 28th win of the season. Grahame allowed three goals on six shots through 40 minutes. Ward faced only four shots in his first appearance in 11 days since sustaining a lacerated knee against the New York Rangers.
Mike Commodore scored Carolina's 10th short-handed goal to tie it 1-1 four minutes into the second period. Chris Clark got the lead back for Washington with a power-play goal a minute later.
Erik Cole delivered a power-play goal on a deflection for Carolina to make it 2-2 at 12:38 of the second period before Ovechkin got his second of the game five minutes later.
Carolina was fresh starting the third period and the Hurricanes jumped on the Capitals in the first two minutes. Staal scored 22 seconds in to it 3-3 and Ladd netted the go-ahead tally at 1:52. For Staal, it was his first goal in nine games. Ladd has scored three of his nine against Washington.
Notes: Carolina C Josef Vasicek has assists in three straight games. ... Washington C Jiri Novotny had two assists.