On the heels of a three-game losing streak, the Vancouver Canucks took to the ice for their second early afternoon game in as many days.
After a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, the Canucks rolled into Washington to battle with Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals. There were some notable changes to the lineup as Conor Garland was not on the ice for warm-ups and he would not play on Sunday afternoon. The Canucks announced why just minutes before puck drop.
In Garland’s place, Alex Chiasson made his jump back into the lineup while Nils Höglander slid up to play with Bo Horvat and Elias Pettersson on the top line.
Even though he got a surprise start on Saturday, Thatcher Demko was back in the net for the Canucks as he got back-to-back starts for the first time this season. As for the Capitals’ crease, they went with Ilya Samsonov as the Capitals were also on the second of a back-to-back.
As for the lineup as a whole, there was one more change as Brad Hunt went back to the press box and Kyle Burroughs drew into the lineup to play the left side on the third defence pairing.
The Canucks looked to get their first win on the tough road trip as they battled the Capitals. The Canucks needed to see their power play have some success as it had been their downfall through the first three games of the trip.
It was a good start for the Capitals, who had many more scoring chances than the Canucks in the opening half-dozen minutes of the game. Vasily Podkolzin had a good start to the period as he did a good job of extending possessions in his first couple of shifts.
The J.T. Miller line had a great shift with about 12 minutes remaining in the period. Miller drove the net hard and created a mad scramble that led to a pair of scoring chances for Brock Boeser.
The first penalty of the game went to Tyler Motte with 11:07 remaining in the period. Motte swung his stick at the blue line and lifted the puck into the crowd for a delay of game penalty.
The Capitals had a cluster of shots on net early in their power play. Those shots co tongues through the whole power play and Ovechkin ripped a 100.6 mph one-timer that snuck through Demko’s five-hole and into the back of the net. 1-0 Capitals.
With the early Ovechkin goal, the Canucks had given up the first goal of the game on every game in this road trip.
The Miller, Boeser and Tanner Pearson line had another great shift where they generated more shots and a scoring chance later in the period. The trio was giving momentum to the team but aside from the Podkolzin line, none of the other lines were able to maintain extended offensive possessions in the period.
Pearson has a grade-A chance late in the period but was unable to get the puck into the yawning cage as Aliaksei Protas reached back and pulled the puck off the crease. The Canucks ended up drawing a penalty on Nic Dowd as he interfered with Elias Pettersson with nine seconds remaining in the period.
The power play carried over into the second period as the Canucks went into the intermission trailing by a goal.
Thoughts from the first
The Pearson, Miller, Boeser line was excellent in the period. They had 10 scoring chances in five minutes of ice time together. The trio spent a large majority of their ice time in the offensive zone. Their extended time in the offensive zone came from Boeser and Miller’s excellent work of gaining the zone with such ease. Miller was driving the net hard, Pearson was working hard on the boards, and the trio combined for six shots on net in the opening 20 minutes.
The Canucks began the period on the power play and went to work. They moved the puck well and gave a strong effort to maintain possession in the offensive zone. That led to an opportunity for Pettersson to shake a Capitals’ defenceman, walk down into the slot, and rip a wrist shot past Samsonov. 1-1 after Pettersson’s goal.
The Capitals came back and drove Demko a bit too hard with an extra stick tap on the play. Burroughs and Matt Irwin dropped the gloves but were only given coincidentals for roughing.
The Canucks continued to control the pace of the game and spend a lot of time in the Capitals’ zone. The Miller line had a long shift that made for some tired Capitals‘ players. The Canucks then made a line change and the Horvat line came out. Pettersson picked up his own rebound on the right side of the net and went behind the net with the puck before banking it off of Samsonov and into the back of the net for his second goal of the period. 2-1 Canucks.
It was Pettersson’s first multi-goal game of the season and fans were loving it.
The Caps had a tremendous scoring chance just after the second Pettersson goal. Demko stayed with the man and made a strong toe save to keep the lead.
Demko continued to face danger and be up to the task as he faced back-to-back odd-man rushes with Ovechkin taking a shot during a two-on-one and then during a three-on-one. Demko was finding his groove in the second of a back-to-back.
The Canucks went back to the power play with 1:43 remaining in the period after some rough stuff on OEL.
Taking more shots was clearly a goal that the Canucks wanted to accomplish as they fired a couple of shots before working the bumper play to Horvat who made no mistake, firing the puck past a screened Samsonov for his team-leading 13th of the season. 3-1 Canucks.
That was the last play of note for the period after a strong middle frame from the Canucks.
Thoughts from the second
The Miller line continued to play great in this game, as they were on the ice for 21 shot attempts for compared to just five shot attempts against. Each of the three players on Miller’s line was bringing something different to the game and it resulted in an extremely strong performance in the first 40 minutes of action.
Demko stepped up in the second period as he has been doing all year long. Demko stopped 21 of the 22 shots he faced in the first 40 minutes and had a couple of big saves in the later parts of the third period including two saves off of Ovechkin rush shots in a short period of time. With a two-goal lead, the goaltender looking good and all the momentum on their side, it felt like the Canucks were going to be able to pull out a win in the fourth game of their killer road trip.
With a two-goal lead, the Canucks were keyed in on blocking shots and were all over the Caps’ shooters early in the period.
Pearson took an interference penalty with 14:05 remaining and that sent the Caps back onto another power play. The Caps didn’t take long to score as they made a quick passing play to Tom Wilson in the bumper and he ripped home the goal to get the Caps within a goal. 3-2 Canucks after the Caps’ power play goal.
Garnet Hathaway took his second penalty of the game when he threw an elbow on Tyler Motte as he skated by. This gave the Canucks their third power play of the game with just over 13 minutes remaining.
The Canucks failed to score on the power play and we were back to even-strength with 10 minutes to go in a one-goal game.
With 4:46 remaining in the period, the Caps took a too many men on the ice penalty and the Canucks went to their fourth power play opportunity of the game.
The Motte line was given some power play time instead of the second unit as time ticked off the clock.
The Caps pulled their goalie with two minutes remaining.
Boeser chased down a puck and found Miller in front to give the Canucks a two-goal lead late: 4-2 Canucks.
It was a well-deserved empty-net goal for a line that was excellent all afternoon long.
After having his first multi-goal game since February 21st, 2021, Elias Pettersson was the Canucks’ top performer. He scored two goals on four shots and played a total of 18:19. He controlled 58% of the attempted shots while on the ice and played with confidence for the first time in a while. Even after his first goal, you could see that there was some added effort in how he was chasing down pucks or coming in on the forecheck. There were glimpses of the Pettersson we know and love on Sunday afternoon.
From start to finish, it felt like the win belonged to the Vancouver Canucks in this one. They controlled a high majority of the possession in the first 40 minutes of the game and were able to fight their way through the third period and maintain their lead into a victory. It was a good day for their top-six players and top-four defencemen. Multi-point games for Bo Horvat, Elias Pettersson, J.T. Miller, and Quinn Hughes were in the recipe for a win as those players found success on a power play that scored two goals.
Elias Pettersson commented on his struggles through the early part of this season.
“I know what I’m capable of,” said Pettersson. “It’s been a very slow start for me. But I mean, it’s a good win for us today, and we’re happy with my two goals today.”
The Canucks now set their eyes on the Nashville Predators, another top team in the league as they wrap up the toughest road trip of the season before returning home to Vancouver.