Instant Reaction: Breakaways and giveaways galore as Canucks defeat the Capitals 3-2 in overtime

Photo credit:© Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Cody Severtson
2 months ago
Welcome back to Instant Reaction — the series here at CanucksArmy where we give you our instant reaction to the game and ask our readers to do the same in the comments section below! Wyatt Arndt is on Stanchies duty and Mike Liu will have The Statsies — CA’s analytics-based post-game report — up tomorrow morning.
Goooooooooooooooooooood afternoon, Canucks fans!
The Vancouver Canucks engaged in their second straight afternooner, and it began almost identically to their Saturday afternooner against the Detroit Red Wings. A sleepy breakout from the Capitals led to an even sleepier defensive effort from Ian Cole and Tyler Myers as they “chased” down a dump-in to the half wall. Nicolas Aube-Kubel beat a backchecking Pius Suter to the puck and floated a pass toward centre-ice where neither Cole nor Myers could be found, leading to the game’s opening goal from ex-Canuck Nic Dowd.
After some back-and-forth action with both teams drawing the Sportsnet Shift Clock of Doom™, the Canucks, off back-to-back strong shifts from Nils Höglander, equalized the game at one, thanks to a fantastic stretch pass from Noah Juulsen to Conor Garland for a breakaway snipe.
It was a fantastic read from Juulsen, who caught the Capitals on a sloppy defensive line change, opening the door for Garland to cruise down Broadway for the snipe past Darcy Kuemper.
Past the midway mark of the first, T.J. Oshie walked J.T. Miller inside the Canucks’ zone, then slashed Quinn Hughes to give Vancouver their first power play of the game. After not liking what he was seeing from Miller, Pettersson, Boeser & company throughout the first period, Rick Tocchet elected to throw out a second power play unit featuring Ilya Mikheyev, Dakota Joshua, Conor Garland, Pius Suter, and Filip Hronek. That second unit ended up giving the Canucks serious life down the final stretch of the first period.
For a full two minutes, this power play unit dominated with possession inside the Caps’ zone. Garland and Joshua parlayed their dominant play at 5-on-5 to dominant play on the man advantage, combining for three scoring chances and that fivesome generating over a half-dozen shot attempts.
It wouldn’t have been a Canucks game without Tyler Myers taking a needless minor penalty, so naturally, he obliged with an interference against Nic Dowd in the final 30 seconds of the period. The Canucks killed off Myers’ penalty to start the middle frame. After a brief shift hemmed in the d-zone deflecting away perimeter shot after perimeter shot, the Canucks quickly returned to their oppressive control game in the offensive zone.
Nils Höglander would draw a holding penalty against Connor McMichael while breaking out of the neutral zone, giving way to another Canucks’ power play starring the second unit.
The second time was less dynamic and resulted in the first unit’s first look at the game, and they, too, struggled to mount anything considerable. Fortunately, at 5-on-5, the two teams exchanged fantastic goals.
First, nearing the midway point of the second period, Alex Ovechkin got himself one closer to Gretzky’s goal record with a bouncer off the outside of Nils Åman’s skate. There’s an unwritten rule in hockey right now: giving up goals to the Washington Capitals is bad unless it’s Ovechkin.
Though the score read “2-1 Washington.” The score was technically 1-1 because Ovechkin’s goals count toward the greater good of the NHL and less toward the events of the game. Everyone’s rooting for Ovi to close on the goalscoring record, so everyone wins when he scores.
Plus, as he’s done so many times this year, Nils Höglander evened the score at two apiece moments later with a gorgeous backhander, top cheese, over Kuemper’s glove side.
Playing his first NHL game since November 30th, Mark Friedman had a decent showing on a pairing with Noah Juulsen until he took a high-sticking penalty in the final stretch of the second period, which gave way to five minutes of sheer domination for the Capitals on the power play and upon the return to 5-on-5.
The Canucks’ inability to break up the Caps’ possession wasn’t Friedman’s fault, so we’re clear.
The third period felt like more of the same form the final five minutes of the second: The Caps winning the bigger share of puck battles, establishing longer cycles, and creating more dangerous looks. It was a great period for the “Demko for Vezina” crowd. But it was a taxing style that wore heavy on the Canucks’ skaters.
Cole and Myers played nearly ten minutes together at 5-on-5 were soundly outshot in their minutes, and doubled in scoring chances generated. It was a brutal showing for the club’s second-most used defensive pairing. However, with Nikita Zaodrov suspended and Mark Friedman playing his first NHL game in more than two months, the Canucks were left with few options for 5v5 ice time distribution. Ironically, it was Ian Cole who sparked two of the Canucks handful of scoring chances in the final frame.
With three minutes left in the game, Washington’s Beck Malenstyn threw the puck over the glass, giving Vancouver a much-needed power play opportunity. The first unit was given the offensive zone faceoff to start, and nearly broke the stalemate with a shot from Brock Boeser that trickled off Kuemper’s left pad. A clapper from Elias Pettersson got blocked out of the Caps’ zone, leading to a brief shift for the second unit.
Upon the return to 5-on-5, the Canucks pressed, with a fivesome of Juulsen, Myers, Joshua, Blueger, and Phil Di Giuseppe hammering away at Kuemper with shot attempts to no avail.
For the second-straight game, they went to overtime, where Connor McMichael got a breakaway and put one off of Demko’s blocker. Fortunately, the Canucks did not take a penalty on the play resulting in a penalty shot.
The overtime session was also entertaining-as-hell. Which isn’t something we haven’t been able to say too often about overtime periods this season. The two squads exchanged end-to-end chances, shots off the post, and near-interferences.
After two stellar overtime chances, McMichael punctuated his overtime work with a brutal giveaway inside the Caps’ d-zone to J.T. Miller, who sealed the victory with a wrister.
It was chaotic. It was fun. It was another Canucks victory!
What’s your instant reaction to tonight’s game? Let us know in the comments section below!

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