By Bill Sands
Lars Eller scored his second goal in as many games, Evgeny Kuznetsov added an insurance marker, and Philipp Grubauer made 37 saves (and finally got some goal support) as the Washington Capitals took care of business with a 3-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night.
In our recap of the first half of the season, we highlighted how the Capitals have been having trouble with “should-win” games (the team also trouble with must-win games, but that’s another story). For every strong win against Tampa Bay and Columbus, there’s an equally disappointing loss to Arizona or Colorado. A home ice game against the fifth-worst team in the league that’s in the middle of a cross-country road trip certainly counts as one of these games, and the Capitals showed good composure as they led for most of the game.
Good Work From Capitals’ Top Line
The Capitals got into penalty trouble early and Vancouver got on the board first with a 5-on-3 power play goal from Daniel Sedin, set up by his twin brother Henrik and Alex Edler. Unfazed, Washington got even with a great shift from its top line. Nicklas Backstrom won a battle behind the net and in the ensuing chaos, the net came off its pegs and threatened to tip over onto goaltender Jacob Markstrom. As Markstrom tried to avoid the net, Backstrom worked the puck to Alex Ovechkin, who fed it to John Carlson. In a stroke of luck, the net returned to its original position just as Carlson unleashed a shot that beat a confused Markstrom and tied the game.
The Capitals kept the pressure on and were rewarded with a go-ahead goal from Lars Eller just over two minutes later. The Caps took the lead into the second period, where they really turned the heat on. Washington dominated the middle period, outshooting Vancouver 18-4 and adding to their lead with another odd goal. Kuznetsov’s initial shot was saved by Markstrom, but the rebound took an odd bounce and caromed into the net.
Grubauer Inspirational In Third Period
To Vancouver’s credit, there was no quit in the third period. Down by two to a good team on the road, the Canucks kept battling and generated numerous scoring chances. Grubauer stood tall, however, and shut the door, making 20 saves in the final frame alone and sending Caps fans home happy.
The win caps off a brief series of Western conference games for Washington, who now returns to division play with a home-and-home series against Carolina on Thursday and Friday night.