The Washington Capitals won the first game of a back to back set of games in Western Canada by beating the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 on Thursday night. The Capitals used mostly the same lineup they used in the last two games, except for substituting Nate Schmidt for Taylor Chorney in defense.
The game remained scoreless throughout most of the first period. The Capitals got the initial power play when Derek Dorsett boarded Nate Schmidt just over 5 minutes into the game. Schmidt was a bit woozy as he got up. Dorsett was sent to the penalty box but the Caps were unable to score on the ensuing power play. In fact, Vancouver seemed to get better chances on that particular power play than the Caps did. Vancouver themselves got a power play during that period when Brooks Orpik was called for a penalty, but the Caps killed that particular penalty successfully. The Caps finally opened the scoring with about five minutes to go in the period when Jay Beagle sped down the ice, made a pass to Jason Chimera who buried it.
The first period ended with the Capitals up 1-0. Overall, the Caps had out-chanced Vancouver that period and goalie Ryan Miller had robbed Ovi on one chance in particular.
Throughout the first period, Craig Laughlin and Joe Beninati discussed the fact that Radim Vrbata had not yet scored this season and had not scored since late March 2015. For this game, Vrbata was placed on the line with the Sedin brothers. So, as is happens so often when Laughlin discusses scoring droughts, that particular player breaks his jinx against the Caps. During the second period, Kuznetsov’s line was fighting for the puck with the Sedins and Vrbata in the defensive zone. Vrbata got the puck and scored the game tying goal, with a wrap-around. He found a little open hole just above Holtby’s left pad and the puck squeaked past him.
During the third period, the Caps tied up the score at 5:42 into the period when Jay Beagle scored on a deflection, with assists by Marcus Johansson and John Carlson.
The game remained tied for a while, with the announcers talking about the possibilities of Overtime and what would a 3 on 3 look like for those teams, given their personnel. However, Alex Ovechkin scored the go ahead goal with less than 5 minutes to go, getting assists from his fellow Russians Kuznetsov and Orlov, featuring a great pass from Kuznetsov.
Only last night, those three Russians were playing X-Box in their hotel room. Goes to show you – those who play X-Box together play good hockey together. Ovi’s goal proved to be the game winner.
It was suspenseful at the end, when the Capitals were caught in the defensive zone for most of the last two minutes and Vancouver had pulled Ryan Miller in favor of an extra attacker. Shot after shot was directed to the goal, with Braden Holtby making the saves and getting his helmet knocked off for the third game in a row. But finally the Caps got the puck out of the defensive zone and the last faceoff was closer to the center, with three seconds to go and the Caps won the game. Final score 3-2. Ovechkin with his fifth goal of the year, scoring 1 goal in each of the Capitals wins. Chimera had his third goal while Beagle scored his first.
The Capitals top line continued their strong play on this road trip. Alex Ovechkin notched his 5th goal of the season thanks to a beautiful cross-ice pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov.
-The Capitals controlled play at 5 on 5 for most of the game. They managed 35 shots on Ryan Miller, who made 32 saves.
-This is the Capitals first win in Vancouver since 2001.
-Jay Beagle finished the game with 15:21 of icetime. He had 1 goal and 1 assist and 3 shots on goal.
-Braden Holtby stopped 23 of 25 shots thrown his way tonight.
-Matt Niskanen led all Capitals skaters with 25:11 of icetime. He finished with a +1 rating and registered 2 shots on goal.
-The Sedins were the biggest threats on the ice for the Canucks. The Sedin line finished with 5 points in the game. Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller was a star in this game too. He was reading Ovechkin’s looks well all night and probably kept the Great 8 from having 2 more goals.
-There was very good pace to this game. There were not too many penalties handed out on either side and both teams traded some good scoring chances.
-The Capitals head to Edmonton tomorrow to close out their Western Canada road trip. They were swept by the Oilers last season, and they will have a handful on their hands with 2015 1st overall pick Connor McDavid.
By George Foussekis and Diane Doyle