The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Capitals lose, 4-2, after yielding three goals in a damaging second period against the Canucks

Ilya Samsonov makes a save as he collides with teammate Martin Fehervary and Vancouver's Juho Lammikko on Sunday. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Placeholder while article actions load

The Washington Capitals left the ice after the second period of their eventual 4-2 loss Sunday afternoon to the Vancouver Canucks to the sound of distinct boos echoing throughout Capital One Arena.

Vancouver (17-18-3) had scored three straight goals in the middle frame, and Washington (21-9-9) again had put itself in a bad spot, watching a 1-0 lead quickly turn into a two-goal deficit.

On a power play, Tom Wilson cut the deficit to 3-2 at 6:22 of the third period with his second goal in as many games. However, the Capitals — despite many opportunities — could not find a late equalizer. Instead, J.T. Miller scored an empty-netter with 57.2 seconds left to put the game away.

“We had great chances to score,” Alex Ovechkin said. “Obviously we didn’t.”

Washington was playing its second matinee in a row, coming off a 2-0 win Saturday on the road against the New York Islanders. The Capitals are 1-3-2 in their past six.

Elias Pettersson scored Vancouver’s first two goals, and Bo Horvat’s power-play goal at 18:50 of the second period gave the Canucks a 3-1 lead.

Before Sunday, Pettersson was on a seven-game scoring drought that spanned more than a month. Pettersson’s first goal was on a power play only 33 seconds into the second period. He scored again at 4:48 of the second when he banked the puck off Ilya Samsonov and in. Samsonov allowed three goals on 31 shots.

Ovechkin got the Capitals on the board early. He scored on a power play from his signature spot from the left circle at 10:31 of the first. He had tried to convert the one-timer two times earlier on the power-play shift but couldn’t get the puck past Thatcher Demko (31 saves). His third thunderous attempt converted, and the captain let out an emphatic yell.

Ovechkin is tied for the league lead in points (54) and goals (26) with the Edmonton Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl. Ovechkin is also on a four-game point streak with two goals and two assists. The goal was his first against Demko, making Demko the 153rd goaltender Ovechkin has scored on in his career.

Ovechkin had good rush chances in the second period, but Demko stopped a pair of shots from the captain from the left circle and another from the slot. Nic Dowd then fumbled the puck on a breakaway attempt.

“I think first half of the game we didn’t go to the front of the net — especially when we move the puck to our blue line, we just stay perimeter, and you can see, every shot [Demko] sees it,” Ovechkin said. “In this league it is hard to score from the blue line if no traffic and nobody in front.”

Here is what to know from the Capitals’ loss to the Canucks:

More lineup changes

Washington continued its lineup shuffle. Carl Hagelin and Dmitry Orlov were back after being cleared from the NHL’s coronavirus protocols earlier in the day. John Carlson entered the protocols, joining Conor Sheary on the list. Sheary landed on the list before Saturday’s game against the Islanders.

T.J. Oshie also did not play Sunday. He suffered an upper-body injury after taking two shifts against the Islanders on Saturday.

Hagelin and Orlov said after Sunday’s game that both were asymptomatic during their time on the covid-19 list.

“It’s frustrating,” Hagelin said. “It’s one of those things, everyone’s going to get it, and you’re missing games but feeling really good. In a normal year you’ll play every game even though you feel terrible some games. That’s part of it, and you’re hoping they’ll change some of these rules going forward.”

Last man standing

With Carlson entering the protocols, Ovechkin is the only Capitals player who has not missed a game this season.

Ovechkin was questionable heading into Saturday’s game with a nagging upper-body injury but played normal minutes. On Sunday morning, Capitals Coach Peter Laviolette said the team was still evaluating Ovechkin’s status for the Canucks game.

Opponents have tried to slow down the captain in multiple ways, but Vancouver Coach Bruce Boudreau said Sunday morning that being physical with Ovechkin was not the answer.

“The more you hit him, he’s like the Hulk,” said Boudreau, who coached Washington from 2007 to 2011. “He gets stronger the angrier he gets. You sort of want to let him sleep.”

Schultz steps up

Justin Schultz played well with Carlson out. He had first-unit power-play minutes and delivered the primary assist on Ovechkin’s goal.

Schultz also saved a goal early in the game as he stopped a puck that was loose in front. Schultz has two goals and five assists this season. He has typically been paired with Trevor van Riemdsyk this season, but with so many personnel changes on defense because of the covid protocols, he was paired with Matt Irwin.

Nick Jensen was elevated to the top pair with rookie Martin Fehervary. Jensen has had a strong 2021-22 campaign and has usually been on the second defensive pairing with Orlov.

No goalie consistency

After Vitek Vanecek recorded a 23-save shutout Saturday against the Islanders, Samsonov’s performance Sunday went south quickly. The Russian goalie continued to struggle. His lack of consistency has only intensified since his back-to-back shutouts against the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks in mid-November.

Samsonov has allowed three or more goals in 10 of his past 13 appearances.

Vanecek, meanwhile, is 7-4-5 with a 2.46 goals against average and .911 save percentage. Neither goaltender has shown any stretch of clear-cut starter potential this season. The NHL’s trade deadline is March 21.