VANCOUVER — Evgeny Kuznetsov flicked the puck to the left faceoff dot, Alex Ovechkin’s favorite position on the ice. Ovechkin fired a laser toward Vancouver goaltender Ryan Miller, who lunged to stop it. But the puck bounced off the far post and into the net, as Ovechkin swung his arms and propelled himself forward in celebration.
With that, the Washington Capitals took a 3-2 lead late in the third period. That score held up as they extended their winning streak to four games and won for the first time in Vancouver in 14 years. And with that score, Ovechkin became the first player in Capitals history to score a goal in each of his first five games of the season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Though Ovechkin’s goal was the game-winner, it was Washington’s checking line, known for its defense, that delivered twice. Jason Chimera gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead, deflecting in a pass from center Jay Beagle. Then in the third period, Beagle batted in the tying goal, setting up Ovechkin’s late-game heroics.
“Nothing really surprises me with Ovi,” Coach Barry Trotz said.
Since a 4-3 Valentine’s Day win in 2001, Washington had been 0-5-1 in British Columbia until Thursday night at Rogers Arena. They got off to a sloppy start, struggling to maintain possession. Washington got an early power play after Derek Dorsett was called for boarding defenseman Nate Schmidt, but the Capitals struggled to get into formation, and the Canucks had two shorthanded breakaway opportunities. The power play tallied just one shot on goal, an attempt by Ovechkin from the left faceoff dot.
He was robbed by Miller later in the first period, when Miller was turned to the left, anticipating a shot from defenseman Karl Alzner. Alzner dished the puck to Ovechkin on the other side, and Miller pivoted in time to save Ovechkin’s shot with his right pad.
“I still have lots of opportunities today to get more,” Ovechkin said.
After Ovechkin’s power-play shot on goal 6 minutes 2 seconds into the first period, the Capitals didn’t tally another one for more than 10 minutes. The drought was finally broken when defenseman John Carlson blocked a Brandon Prust shot that ricocheted toward Andre Burakovsky. Burakovsky fed Beagle, who rumbled down the right side of the ice, with Chimera keeping pace on the left.
Chimera pumped the brakes just in time to receive Beagle’s pass across the top of the crease, deflecting the puck in with Miller still facing Beagle. It marked Chimera’s third goal this season— the 36-year-old had just seven goals all of last season.
“I think we’re just finding each other now and getting more used to each other and kind of getting the rust off offensively,” Beagle said. “Defense is our first priority. I know I’m very defensive minded, but certain nights, you’ve got to be more offensive.”
But the lead didn’t last long. Four minutes into the second period, Henrik Sedin spun from behind the goal and fired the puck into the crease, where Radim Vrbata’s skate deflected it past goaltender Braden Holtby.
The Canucks then had two power-play opportunities in the second period. On the second one, from just below the right faceoff dot, Sedin launched a shot from his knees and found the smallest of windows, slipping the puck between Holtby’s pad and the pipe for a 2-1 Vancouver lead.
But just as everything appeared to be going Vancouver’s way, the Canucks had a defensive zone giveaway and Carlson sent a puck toward the net. It got caught between Beagle’s stick and skate, bouncing up and over Miller for the tying goal 5:42 into the third period. Miller had lost sight of it, and it rolled off his shoulder and into the net.
“I just knew to try and crash the net,” Beagle said. “I think it bounced off a couple people, hit me and then bounced out in front of me. I just tried to whack at it. After that, I kind of got hit. I saw it go in, but I’m not sure how.”
Ovechkin then came through with 4:55 left in the game, and Holtby, who made 23 saves, withstood a late-game empty net push by Vancouver. Trotz joked after that Burakovsky, all of 20, reminded Trotz that he was just 6 years old the last time the Capitals won a game here.
“We’ll take the win,” Trotz said. “Maybe not our best game, but we found a way to win. That’s what we trying to do, collect points as we can here.”