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The Warmup

After a four-game road trip – in which they went 3-1 to boost their season record to 6-3 – the Vancouver Canucks returned to the home ice of Rogers Arena on Friday night for a rare visit from Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. For their part, the Capitals were coming off a hard-fought Thursday loss against the Edmonton Oilers that went to overtime – signalling a clear opportunity for the Canucks to continue their good fortune and gain some ground on those aforementioned Oilers for first place in the Pacific Division. That being said, the Washington roster also featured John Carlson and his league-leading 21 points.

Jeff Paterson provided the lineup on Twitter, which featured no roster changes for the Canucks – though Travis Green had iced a handful of different line combinations in practice:

The home team were wearing their new third jerseys for the second time as they were led onto the ice for warmup by starting goaltender Jacob Markstrom, set to face rookie Ilya Samsonov.

The matchup also marked the occasion of Diwali Night, something that’s become an annual tradition for the Canucks and just one more celebration in a #Canucks50 schedule full of ceremony.

1st Period

The Canucks looked a little shaky right off the hop, leading to several early scoring chances for the Capitals – and perhaps the greatest save of Jacob Markstrom’s season thus far.

Unfortunately, that remarkable stop only delayed the inevitable, as later in the same shift Evgeni Kuznetsov – fresh off an offseason suspension for substance abuse – forced a Micheal turnover, received a pass at the net, and made a clever move to beat Markstrom. Jakub Vrana picked up the only assist, and Washington leapt out to a 1-0 lead just 3:18 into the first period.

The Canucks received an opportunity to tie it up shortly thereafter when a Michal Kempny hook on Elias Pettersson put them on the first powerplay of the period. The game also received its first hint of emotion on the same play after Tom Wilson delivered a postwhistle thump on Brock Boeser – drawing the attention of several Canucks. It would be Boeser himself, however, who delivered some immediate vengeance.

Newly-minted powerplay quarterback Quinn Hughes deftly skated the puck from his own end into the attacking zone and slid the puck into the slot – where it went off a defender’s stick and right into the possession of Boeser in the slot. The Canucks sniper showed no hesitation in wiring the puck past the rookie netminder, knotting the score at 1-1. Captain Bo Horvat notched a secondary assist on the play, which came 4:33 into the opening frame.

Tanner Pearson high-sticked the league-leading John Carlson a few minutes later, giving the potent Capitals’ man advantage their first opportunity of the game – but it would be the PK duo of Jay Beagle and Tim Schaller who would strike first. After Beagle won the opening draw of the kill, Schaller picked up the puck and skated it the length of the ice before floating a lazy wrister past Samsonov – a questionable goal, but good enough to put the Canucks ahead 2-1 with their second shorthanded marker of the year.

It also made for the perfect opportunity to promote Ryan Hank’s pet hashtag.

Just past the period’s halfway mark, JT Miller took a tripping minor – sending Washington back on the powerplay. Again, it was the Canucks who would earn the best scoring chance of the ensuing two minutes, this time via an exciting Tyler Myers rush that Samsonov managed to turn aside.

The rookie Samsonov looked a little more comfortable in turning away a handful of further Vancouver chances as the remaining minutes of the first period expired without much more action of note, aside from a stiff check on Tom Wilson by Quinn Hughes of all people. Alex Ovechkin also picked up a slashing minor with 12 seconds remaining, leaving the Canucks with most of a powerplay on a fresh sheet of ice to start the second period.

After 20 minutes, the shots were 13-11 in favour of the Canucks – who also held a 2-1 advantage on the scoreboard.

Intermission Highlight

Realizing that the team is in such a good place right now that fans have been forced to turn their critical eye toward the intermission personalities:

2nd Period

The Vancouver powerplay got right back to work as the middle frame opened, with Quinn Hughes displaying his penchant for directing pucks at net on the man advantage. Unfortunately, none of them actually made it as far as Ilya Samsonov.

At one point, Elias Pettersson “nutmegged” Radko Gudas, according to John Shorthouse – whatever that means.

Tom Wilson flattened a trio of Canucks on a single shift – first Tyler Myers, then Elias Pettersson and Alex Edler – which led to Micheal Ferland challenging him to a fight. At the end of a lengthy shift, Wilson opted to grasp Ferland in a tight hug and not let go – but the two also appeared to set an appointment for later.

Pettersson continued his impressive period and increased the Canucks’ lead with a snipe over Samsonov’s shoulder, having corralled the puck on a broken play. The goal – which came at 5:59 of the second – was Pettersson’s third of the year, and featured assists from JT Miller and Brock Boeser.

With that, the game opened up – with both teams putting forth stints of sustained pressure and trading multiple scoring chances. Jacob Markstrom continued to look strong whenever tested, leading the assembled mass of Rogers Arena to break into a chant of “Marky, Marky” after one particularly inspiring save.

As the game reached its halfway mark, the shots had increased to 19-16 in favour of the Canucks – but the score remained at 3-1.

Michal Kempny made his second trip to the box with an interference call, granting the home team their third man advantage of the night. Once again, the top unit wasted no time in getting the puck on net – with Pettersson rocketing a shot off the crossbar and out of play. A few more quality chances ensued when play resumed, but neither the top unit nor the second were able to convert on any of their opportunities.

The #SchallerNothing hashtag got another chance to fly when Tim Schaller batted his second of the night out of the air from right in front of Samsonov – a remarkable display of hand-eye coordination that the Capitals erroneously asserted was a high-stick. The goal – unassisted with 6:01 remaining in the period – put the Canucks ahead 4-1, and they weren’t done there.

On the next shift – and just 55 seconds later – Jake Virtanen notched his second of the year, ripping home a nice set-up from Bo Horvat and Ferland. With that, the Canucks moved into a 5-1 lead – and firmly into control of the match.

The Capitals’ slipping grasp on the game showed less than a minute later, with Lars Eller taking an undisciplined tripping penalty against Troy Stecher – sending Vancouver right back to the powerplay. Again, the Canucks’ top unit looked dangerous under the quarterbacking of Hughes, but they were unable to produce a goal – moving to 1/4 on the night.

That didn’t do much to diminish what had been a dominant period, but a literal last-second goal by Evgeni Kuznetsov certainly did – with the Capitals center beating Markstrom with 0.3 second remaining on the clock.

The Canucks skated off after 40 minutes with a 25-16 advantage on the shot-clock – but a slightly reduced 5-2 lead on the scoreboard.

Intermission Highlight

Discovering that even #ShotgunJake advocates have time to celebrate Diwali:

3rd Period

The Canucks received yet another man advantage early in the third period, as Jakub Vrana carelessly high-sticked Brandon Sutter just 1:08 into the period. This time around, the top unit looked anything but dominant – and looked to be quite distracted by a hook on Elias Pettersosn that went uncalled. Two Vancouver defenders bobbled a Jacob Markstrom pass into the corner and Quinn Hughes was unable to intercept a centering play to Lars Eller, who managed to squeeze a shorthanded goal through the legs of Markstrom.

The Canucks remained on the powerplay, but their lead had been reduced to 5-3 and they were unable to convert on the remainder. And things would only get worse from there.

A couple of minutes later, Michal Kempny made up for his earlier trips to the penalty box by hammering a one-timer point shot that beat Markstrom clean – bringing the Capitals to within one of what once looked like a rock-solid Vancouver lead.

When play resumed, the Rogers Arena crowd broke into a half-hearted “Go Canucks Go” chant that sounded more nervous than anything – and that died away after only a handful of repetitions. The tension was palpable – and it was about to get even palpabler.

If Kempny hadn’t regained his coach’s trust with his first one-timer from the point, he definitely did with his second – which also beat Markstrom clean, this time off the post and in. With four unanswered goals, the Capitals had tied the game at 5-5 just 7:41 into the final frame – prompting Travis Green to call a timeout and berate his team for their dreadful third period collapse.

The ice seemed firmly tilted in Washington’s favour – though Micheal Ferland nearly turned the tide single-handedly when he intercepted a clearing pass and very nearly put his subsequent shot through Samsonov’s pads. At the very least, this had easily been the beleaguered winger’s best game as a Canuck.

Brandon Sutter had a good shift to earn the Canucks a bit more momentum, ripping a one-timer at Samsonov and then bodying Alex Ovechkin off the puck at the other end of the ice shortly thereafter. The home team appeared to have stopped the bleeding as the period entered its final TV timeout – though it was definitely a case of too little, too late.

Josh Leivo and JT Miller also earned chances with a couple of minutes remaining, but were unable to beat Samsonov.

Alex Ovechkin received a brilliant chance of his own, but Markstrom made a stumbling save to keep the score knotted as the game approached its final minute. After officials appeared to put their whistles away with overtime looming, fans in attendance let their disdain be known – but their frustration quickly gave way to excitement at the prospect of three-on-three action.

Overtime Period

The trio of Bo Horvat, JT Miller, and Alex Edler started for the Canucks as the extra frame began. The unit had a couple of good looks at the Capitals net, but they also nearly gave up a clean opportunity to NHL leading scorer John Carlson.

Next up were Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, and Quinn Hughes – but the only result was a Boeser one-timer after a change had started that Ilya Samsonov was able to get a glove on.

When the opening unit came back out, Horvat made a perfect cross-ice feed to a streaking Miller – who rang one off the post. The puck made it back up the ice to Alex Ovechkin for a breakway – but Jacob Markstrom turned him aside with a sharp pad save and the game settled down once again. Each team failed to follow through on a couple more chances each, and then it was time for a shootout.

Shootout

Brock Boeser went first, but wired a wrister directly into Ilya Samsonov’s glove.

TJ Oshie shot first for the Capitals – winding his way in slowly and beating Jacob Markstrom though the five-hole to give the visitors the advantage.

Elias Pettersson went next, and pulled off a high-speed juke that left Samsonov sliding in the wrong direction – and the puck sliding easily into the net to tie things up.

The shootout remained tied as Markstrom outwaited Evgeni Kuznetsov on the next attempt.

Tanner Pearson had a chance to move the Canucks into the lead, but fired a shot off Samsonov and wide.

That left Nicklas Backstrom with an opportunity to complete the comeback – and that’s exactly what he did, beating Markstrom with a wrister off the post and in.

That left it at 6-5 Capitals – a final result that was tough to swallow for both the Canucks and the fans in attendance. Markstrom broke his stick over his knee as he exited the ice.

The Wrap-Up

One would think there’d be several positives to pull from a game in which the Vancouver Canucks scored five goals – with two of them coming from Tim Schaller, no less – even if that game ended in a loss. But that just wasn’t the case tonight.

Jacob Markstrom – easily the team’s MVP heading into the matchup – had his most dreadful game in a long time, giving up a handful of questionable goals and ultimately faltering in the shootout. He didn’t receive much support from a Vancouver defense that collapsed in the third, letting the Capitals back into a game they had no business coming back in – never mind winning.

As such, it’s tough to leave this game with anything but a sour taste in one’s mouth – and coach Travis Green will have a lot to work on in practice over the weekend as the Canucks prepare to complete their brief homestand on Monday.

Fancy Stats At A Glance

Gameflow from Canucks at Washington October 25, 2019 (courtesy of naturalstattrick.com)

Heatmap from Canucks vs Washington October 25, 2019 (courtesy of naturalstattrick.com)

Top Performers

Tim Schaller

Anytime Schaller scores two goals in a game, he’s going to be named a Top Performer. He didn’t do all that much aside from his two markers – though he and the Canucks’ PKers were also 2/2 on the kill – but he still contributed more than the rest of his teammates, and didn’t directly contribute to their third period collapse.

Brock Boeser

Boeser had a two-point game with a goal and an assist, but that wasn’t the only way in which he performed well tonight. Boeser skated with greater intensity tonight than he typically does, and seemed to drive play for the first line on most shifts – something that doesn’t always happen when one shares the ice with Elias Pettersson. Any early-season concerns about Boeser’s game have fallen by the wayside.

Micheal Ferland

This probably qualifies as Ferland’s best game yet as a Canuck, though he only picked up a single assist. He took four shots, landed at least two hits, and challenged Tom Wilson early in the game – an act that really seemed to settle down the rambunctious Washington winger.

Next Game

The Canucks will finish off the back-half of a two-game homestand on Monday, October 28 against the Florida Panthers. The game will be broadcast on Sportsnet Pacific with a start-time of 7:00PM PST.


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